Eddie McGuire (Image: AAP/David Crosling

The Seven Network claimed a win over Nine this week with its modest offering The Front Bar ending the 25 year run of Nine’s once mighty Footy Show.

It’s an inglorious end to a program that had dominated Melbourne TV viewing and news flow for more than two decades (good and bad) because of the high profile hosts such as Eddie McGuire and Sam Newman. 

The program died because viewers — especially those in the Melbourne AFL heartland — deserted it in their hundreds of thousands a week. They were moving to The Front Bar after Seven switched it from after the Friday AFL game to a stand alone timeslot of 8:30pm on most Thursdays in AFL markets.

The reason for the viewer switch was easy to see — a lack of sexist, blokey, bombastic content on the Seven program. Compare this to the Footy Show where Sam Newman in particular helped alienate female viewers. Nine made four format and hosting line up changes in two years to try and halt the loss of viewers, but none succeeded.

The writing was on the wall from the start of the 2019 AFL season when The Front Bar continued to build audiences — especially in Melbourne to well above 250,000 in Melbourne (the only market of any consequence) while The Footy Show’s figures slumped to where just 53,000 viewers in Melbourne watched a week ago last night, an all time low. There was a story in the Melbourne Herald Sun on Tuesday that the program had been axed (other stories suggested it might be moved to a new timeslot) but Nine denied that and said the Footy Show would air on Thursday night, which it did, but only after a pre-broadcast axing was announced by Nine.

Last night The Front Bar notched up its all time high of national audience of 606,000 and a record high of 308,000 in Melbourne, making it the second most watched program in that market after the second half of Seven’s News. Ironically the Footy Show had its best night this year — the national audience jumped to 173,000 from 143000 last week and the Melbourne audience rose to 73,000. In percentage terms big rises from a low base, but in reality the last rites from a jaded audience.

The biggest loser from this is Eddie McGuire. His production company made the show for Nine, but it is another loss of face for the Collingwood president and FM radio host and Foxtel personality.

He has been in trouble this year for mocking comments about double amputee Cynthia Banham for a pre-game coin toss prior to an AFL game involving the Swans (she is the Swans ambassador). He subsequently apologised and said he had “no visibility” of the coin toss when he made the remarks. 

Back in 2013 he likened Indigenous Swans great, Adam Goodes to King Kong and in 2016 he alluded to drowning Nine newspapers sports journalist Caroline Wilson. Wilson had also been attacked on the Footy Show several times for her forthright commentary, particular by Swam Newman. 

McGuire will still front Millionaire Hot Seat for Nine, but his star has been considerably diminished and Nine is left wondering how it let its biggest programming in Melbourne hit vanished in the space of two and a bit years.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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