SYDNEY — Eddie McGuire has stepped down as topper of James Packer’s Nine Network just a year into the role.
McGuire took on the CEO role in February last year as Nine was locked in battle with the rival Seven Network for ratings. Nine has been the ratings winner for nearly two decades, but in 2007 looks set to cede its title to Seven, which is controlled by billionaire Kerry Stokes, due to a loss of viewers.
McGuire will return to a more active on-air role at the network. Before taking on the top job he was host of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and was one of the web’s most popular on-air talents.
Earlier this year he returned to the screen as host of quizzer “1 vs. 100,” prompting speculation that he would relinquish his role of CEO.
“It has become clear over the past 12 months that McGuire’s absence from on air as a key host has impacted on the ratings of the Network,” said Ian Law, the CEO of PBL Media, Nine’s owner. “The performance of ‘1 v 100’ in addition to his executive duties shows how significant Eddie’s contribution can be to our lineup.”
Quizzer is the top-rated program on Nine and in the top 20 most-watched shows this year.
In a move that may soften the blow to McGuire, who is known as being very driven, no one else will get the top job.
“We are not proposing to directly replace the role of CEO of Nine,” said Law. “The existing Nine Network management team headed up by Jeffrey Browne (executive director) will take the network forward.”
McGuire said in a statement that he was positive about the change.
“I have made a commitment for the next five years and we have a clear mandate to produce the best local content in Australia,” he said.
McGuire’s time as topper of the web was not without controversy. During his tenure, a breach of contract trial of former Nine employee Mark Llewellyn saw private conversation between Llewellyn and McGuire surface where he promised to “to bone” (to fire) “Today” show host Jessica Rowe. Rowe left the morning skein last month and the term “bone” has entered into common speech Down Under.
Nine has also been suffering in the ratings. So far this year Seven leads the ratings race with 37.7% of the prime-time aud, and Nine trails with 34.2%, down from 34.5% a year earlier.