Since mid 2012 there have been numerous rumours about major change to its early evenings.
Those rumours have included:
– One hour news bulletin
– State based Today Tonight (SA and WA already have these)
– Local news at 5:30pm
– Moving Today Tonight to 5:30pm
– Renaming its current affairs bulletin
– Moving Deal or No Deal to 5pm
– Helen Kapalos, Samantha Armytage, Bill McDonald, Rebecca Maddern, all named in various rumours
In addition to the media reports there have been several tell-tale signs that change is imminent:
– Falling News figures in Sydney and especially Melbourne.
– Nine’s rising News figures in the same markets
– Exit of Matt White as Today Tonight host
– Appointment of Rob Raschke to News and Neil Mooney to Public Affairs
– Resignation of Peter Meakin, still a Seven consultant
– Recruitment ads for News staff around the country
– Statements by Meakin that shows would evolve: “more inventive, more adventurous.”
– Falling numbers for Deal or No Deal
– Tabloid branding for Today Tonight is a turn-off
Ultimately everything comes down to numbers. How are the shows performing with demographics versus cost? Can Seven spend its dollar to deliver a better outcome?
The risks are huge. TEN tried to change habits in 2011 with dire consequences from which it still has not recovered.
On the back of the bushfire disasters, one hour news bulletins have been screening in several cities this week (there’s even an hour scheduled for Sydney tomorrow).
In Sydney it’s been an encouraging toe-to-toe fight -but is it due to the fires or the length of the bulletins, or both?
In Melbourne, there is still much ground to make up where Nine remains in front with Peter Hitchener, while Seven has Jennifer Keyte.
If the changes, as rumoured, are as radical as a one hour bulletin and a rebadged current affairs show at 5:30pm, Nine would do well to stay the course. There will be a big slice of the audience that won’t embrace change quickly.
However this is carved up, 2013 is already shaping up as a fascinating year.