Nine offered Sam Newman ultimatum

Before they mutually parted ways, Nine offered its court jester a choice.

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!”

14 Responses

  1. “Mutually parted”? “Wishing him the best with his future endeavours”? Uh huh. It reminds me of how I was ruthlessly railroaded out of the Public Service in the 1980s, and I received the form letter for dismissals that “we wish you all the best with your new career”. I printed the blank for that letter when I was there and at home I waited for the personalised version of it to appear in my mail box.

  2. Listen to the weekly podcast he does with Mike Sheahan and Don Scott and try to argue against most if not all of what he says. You’ll struggle. Or at least get a balanced view with the other 2 there. They also get some really great guests on the show (from Shane Warne to Sally Capp, Libby Gore to Andrew Gaze) that result in some incredibly interesting stories and insights. Happy he chose to continue his podcast which has a huge following.

  3. In its day, I loved the footy show. I had no care for the sport, but would watch each Thursday night, and be entertained – and I really was entertained! The show was fun, dangerous, would show glimpses of Bendigo St 9 studios, and was such a laugh. Sam to me was always extreme, brash and had views which were not really mine. Over the years as I got older, my views changed as I guess has moved with society, where as many people in the older age bracket don’t. I don’t blame the man, I just don’t agree with him, and agree its the right move. Above everything… I so wish there was a live show on 9 which gave the thrill, yet based on the sunday night takeaway, we are years from having any of that again…

  4. They shouldn’t have given him the option. You know he’s not going to change, it’s who he is.
    David nailed by saying “not moving with the times”.
    Its one thing to hold values and views and another to just hold disrespect.

    1. agreed, someone like Sam is never going to change, however it would seem very hypocritical of Nine not to give him the option though since they made loads of $ from airing his same out of date boys club humour for years. This is why the Front Bar is so refreshing, the humour maybe sarcasm but not the type that is anti women & minorities like the Footy Show was.

    1. Freedom of speech means one thing and one thing only. It means that the government cannot come after you based on what you say. It means your speech cannot be impeded by the government.

      It does not mean that you can say what you want without consequences, and it certainly doesn’t mean that private companies are not allowed to decide what does and does not go on their platforms. Just like I can kick you out of my house if you behave or say disgusting things, Twitter can kick you out of their ‘house’.

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