The balls are back in town

Since the passing of Kerry Packer on Boxing Day 2005, his pride and joy the Nine Network has been in a state of uncertainty as the network that he so confidently steered to top of the ratings for thirty years was suddenly out of control. His son James did not appear to possess the same passion for the medium as his late father had done and the chiefs running the network were seemingly grappling with the task of taking the ‘old school’ network into the 21st century.

It was clear that a new direction had to be taken post-KP and with that, in January 2006, the most visible component of the Nine Network – its logo of 35+ years – was shuffled off the air and replaced with a similarly shaped ‘9’ but missing the trademark ‘balls’ that had identified the network so succinctly.

The changing of the logo also coincided with the changing of the guard as caretaker CEO Sam Chisholm had handed over the role to Eddie McGuire, the former journalist turned TV presenter and Collingwood Football Club president – and hence began a turbulent time in Nine’s history, though not necessarily of McGuire’s doing as some of Nine’s problems were evident or mapped out prior to his arrival or were driven by other forces within the network, which has been well documented in the media and in books such as Who Killed Channel Nine? by former Sixty Minutes producer Gerald Stone.

The turmoil that dogged the network in 2006 continued this year with the realisation that Nine was going to lose the ratings crown to arch rival Seven for the first time in living memory. Changes had to be made, and following McGuire resigning from the CEO role came the announcement that one of his predecessors, David Gyngell, had been lured back to the network. Gyngell had resigned from the CEO position in 2005 citing interference from senior management at Nine’s parent company PBL – but now the network was effectively under new ownership as James Packer had sold PBL’s controlling interest in Nine to investment company CVC.

Upon his return, Gyngell has been seen as having a passion for television, and for Nine in particular. Hardly surprising, given that his father, the late Bruce Gyngell, was a senior figure at Nine for many years and his ties with the Packer family obviously impressed on his son.

Gyngell’s return marked a well-needed boost to morale for Nine’s troops after two years of upheaval. Gyngell immediately set out to turn the tide at Nine – and in doing so has reinstated the iconic balls to Nine’s identity as part of its relaunch into 2008, although hints of the 9 balls being returned were evident in station promotions during 2007 and Nine also used the revisited logo in its press promotion of its Federal Election coverage last week.

Changing the logo does tend to send out a mixed message however – as it serves as a reminder of the “old” Nine at a time when it perhaps should be looking to a “future” Nine, but it also sends out the message that the “loser” Nine that the 2006-07 logo represented, is now no longer and that the network is looking to fight back to being “still the one” again.

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