Nine management moved on Sam Newman after his comments on social media and a podcast this week went too far.
So many times his transgressions had been defended by the network. When they upset advertisers, when they breached ACMA’s Code of Practice or even offended those within the network he remained.
Outrageous and even offensive behaviour could always be defended when it led to winning ratings.
The Footy Show was a ratings juggernaut, drawing audiences in across Melbourne, Adelaide & Perth. Nine has a long history of Live and dangerous Tonight shows until The Footy Show was the last one standing. And Newman was the court jester, performing dazzling TV tricks without a safety net. Such charisma can’t be taught, and Newman had it in spades.
He once said of his Street Talk segment, “If you watch carefully, Street Talk, we don’t belittle people. We don’t make fun of them. We chat to them. We ask them a question and they do the rest.”
But over its two and a half decades the show’s audience changed. For too long it was a boys’ club and the locker room humour failed to move with the times, even as the AFL itself embraced change. The jester was still juggling but with fewer spectators….
In Television fatigue comes to all shows. When The Front Bar launched quietly with three blokes having a yarn about all things football many commented it was like the early days of The Footy Show. By 2018 Seven’s show began to beat Nine’s and by 2019 it had well and truly snatched the crown.
Newman’s contract with Nine was due to conclude at the end of the year. He was given a regular appearance on The Sunday Footy Show, which last weekend drew 65,000 metro viewers, 41,000 of them in Melbourne.
Nine was locked in discussion on his latest comments -including Black Lives Matter- for several days. They did not represent the standards of the network under CEO Hugh Marks, nor the AFL. While social media was targeting Nine’s advertisers, and without his primetime ratings, the jester was far more exposed.
On Friday afternoon he was offered the option to quit Twitter and his podcast, and see out his contract on the Sunday Footy Show for the remainder of the year. It was not to be.
After 35 years with the network, most of which were a ratings drawcard, it was agreed to mutually part ways.
Nine was generous and genuine in its parting statement, fittingly describing him as “a master at Live television” and wishing him the best with his future endeavours.
Notably the statement was made by a network spokesperson, and not by the CEO Hugh Marks, Director of Television Michael Healy nor Head of Sport Brent Williams -a former Footy Show executive producer.
Always one to have the final word, at 5:57pm yesterday Newman tweeted, “The 9 network and I have MUTUALLY decided that, in the station’s best interests, I withdraw form (sic) appearing on their programs – forthwith.
“And, for me, the last 35-odd years have been fantastic. Really!”