Off the Wall

The ratings for last Thursday night's free to air television programmes must have set off alarm bells at Channel Nine.


The programme's ratings have been in decline for some years - and this year it has the added burden of being compared with the Matty Johns show on Seven.


It is performing atrociously - especially in its most important market, Sydney.


Last Thursday night the John show averaged 267,000 viewers in Sydney and 144,000 in Brisbane.


The Footy Show, admittedly two hours later, drew just 135,000 viewers in Sydney, and 102,000 in Brisbane. The Brisbane figure is reasonably respectful - the Sydney figures are about as bad as it can possibly get.


The argument constantly trotted out in defence of the Footy Show's so called "format" is that viewers are not interested in a serious sports programme.


Well they are not interested in what is currently being served up - especially Sydney viewers.


The Channel Seven programme has lost some of its viewing audience since its impressive debut, but when you are running at double your perceived rival you are not in bad shape!


Rugby league needs all the favourable media coverage it can get.


The Sunday footy shows are generally informative - and interesting. The Thursday night Footy Show could be the same - but there seems to be a reluctance on the part of Nine to present a serious programme that previews the weekend matches.


The Friday night and Sunday afternoon ratings are reasonable...but they can be better. A quality preview programme might help lift overall numbers for rugby league on free to air.


As the NRL prepares to negotiate a television rights agreement that will be absolutely critical to the future financial viability of the game, there are signs that both Ten and Seven have a genuine interest in bidding for at least a share in the rights for rugby league.


But those negotiations are close to a year away - and a lot of water will flow under the bridge before then.


We are, for at least three more seasons, stuck with Nine - so we need Nine to rate as highly as it can.


And that means major surgery on the Footy Show cannot be delayed any longer!