An overview of the Nine network

By Matthew Koce

(Australian Aboriginal Flag)
This paper prepared after the 40 Years of Television Conference (December 1998), but included as supplementary materials.

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This essay will provide a comprehensive overview of the Channel Nine Network. The essay is divided into three sections: The first studies the Frank Packer years, 1956-1974. This section commences with an examination of the original TCN 9 and GTV 9 consortiums, the methods by which licenses were issued and the regulatory environment in which they had to function. It also studies the acquisition of GTV 9 by Frank Packer’s TCN 9 in 1960 which led to the establishment of Australia’s first national television network. A history of Channel Nine is impossible without also discussing the Packer family which has owned a controlling stake in Nine for most of its history, the two are best described as symbiotic. The second section focuses on Kerry Packer’s contribution to Channel Nine. It covers the phenomenon World Series Cricket, his motives for successfully lobbying the Government to launch a domestic satellite and his exploitation of government policy during the Hawke/Keating years (1983-1995). The third section studies Nine’s move towards convergent technology, in particular its decision to establish NineMSN in partnership with Microsoft, an approach that James Packer had passionately lobbied his father to adopt.

It is interesting that Frank Packer bought the TCN 9 license more out of a fear that television would challenge his publishing empire than out of any real vision for its future. It was his son, Kerry, who had the real passion for Channel Nine. Kerry Packer suffered from dyslexia so he substituted reading with television. As a result he quickly became familiar with the new medium and developed a strong understanding of its full potential. With the help of his brother Clyde, Kerry eventually managed to convince his father to sell the Daily Telegraph, placing the family’s interest in television ahead of those of the press. The new heir apparent, James Packer, has brought with him a whole new vision. Central to this vision is the emergence of convergent technologies such as the internet. One of the secrets behind Channel Nine’s success has been its ability to be innovative and to take advantage of new technology.

The Frank Packer Years (1956-1974)

A Royal Commission set up by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1953 recommended setting up one national television station and two commercial stations in both Melbourne and Sydney with a more gradual establishment of commercial stations in regional Australia and the remaining capital cities. Licenses were granted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB) which conducted public hearings in 1955. Four applications were received for the two Melbourne licenses and eight for the two in Sydney. The ABCB recommended that the four licenses be given to applicants with substantial press and broadcasting interests, a trait that all the applicants possessed.

Frank Packer bid for one of the Sydney stations and ensured his bid had the right technical expertise, financial backing and political support to succeed. Frank Packer was granted a license to run TCN 9 whilst the other Sydney license was awarded to a consortium lead by Fairfax and Macquarie Broadcasting. Shareholders in Packer’s Television Consolidated Ltd included the British newspaper group Associated Newspapers, the electrical giant Phillips, Sydney radio station 2KY and the Church of England Property Trust. The New South Wales Labor Council owned 2KY so its inclusion made the consortium look as if it represented a broad cross-section of the community whilst the inclusion of the Church gave the bid moral rectitude.

It was a similar story in Melbourne. A consortium led by two newspaper companies, The Argus and David Syme’s The Age, won the license for GTV 9. Additional minor shareholders included Hoyts, Greater Union, Electronic Industries, J.C. Williamson’s Theatres, 3XY, 3UZ, 3KZ and Cinesound Productions. The second Melbourne license, HSV 7 went to the Melbourne Herald group.

Of the four new licensees, Packer’s TCN 9 was the first to open officially, doing so on September 16, 1956, some two months ahead of its competitors. It is interesting that this date does not mark the beginning of television broadcasting history. That honor is held by GTV 9. GTV 9 officially opened on January 19, 1957 but had been granted permission to use the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne for test transmissions. This was a marketing coupe for GTV 9.

GTV 9 trained its cameras on events that Australians did well at such as the swimming and track and field in a bid to heighten public interest. The coverage was sponsored by Ampol, which paid 1,000 pounds for rights to the Olympic Committee and 8,000 pounds to GTV 9 for commercial announcements. GTV 9 had ambushed its rivals and captured the public’s imagination in the process.

Ampol service stations were converted into special tele-theatres to allow mass viewing and the public flocked to electrical stores were they would stand for hours watching live events. More gold medals were won by Australian athletes at those games than ever before or since and because the footage was flown to Sydney each evening it became a national event. The triumph of Betty Cuthbert and Murray Rose,

…came to symbolise Australian success, power and a burgeoning feeling of connection with the rest of the world. For a country so globally isolated, these were powerful attributes indeed.

The GTV 9 coverage of the Olympic Games spearheaded television’s immediate popularity. Television ownership in Melbourne skyrocketed, within a year of television’s introduction 26 percent of the population had a set. In Sydney that figure was 12 percent. These were significant figures given that the cost of a set was some three times the average monthly wage.

…for most first-generation TV viewers in Australia, the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games was the event that created their earliest television memories.

The initial popularity of television was built on the coverage of the Olympic Games and the national pride that stemmed from it but this diet of locally produced content was to become a short-lived trend. During the period up to the mid 1960s almost all prime time material was of foreign origin, of which 83 percent was US and the rest British. Bidding for high rating foreign material, such as I Love Lucy, was often frantic. This pushed up prices which where on average 15-25 percent higher than elsewhere in the world. To reduce costs stations formed unofficial networks through which they could on sell programs. ATN 7 in Sydney and GTV 9 in Melbourne had built up a very successful relationship along these lines.

This relationship came under threat in 1957 when the Argus newspaper folded. Control of the Argus passed on to the Herald and Weekly Times and part of the package included a considerable holding in GTV 9. Under the 1956 Australian Broadcast and Television Act a single organization was permitted ownership and control of only one television station in a capital city and no more than two stations in Australia. In addition foreign ownership was restricted to 20 percent of any one station. The legislation was drafted with the aim of encouraging competition within metropolitan regions. It also prevented city-based networks from dominating regional Australia, thus promoting localism.

The Herald already had interests in one Melbourne station, HSV 7, so it was forced to divest its GTV 9 shares. The shares were sold to Sir Arthur Warner’s Electronic Industries and control of the station remained with him until 1960. In 1960 Electronic Industries was sold to the British firm PYE which, as a foreign company, was forced to sell its interest in GTV 9.

Rupert Henderson, the managing director of Fairfax, expected that Sir Arthur Warner would give him first option to buy his GTV 9 shares. A station in both Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two largest cities, would have enabled Fairfax to reach the largest possible audience allowed under the Broadcast and Television Act.

In the end it was Frank Packer who won the day. In a deal that surprised everyone Sir Frank bought Warner’s 62 percent holding in GTV 9 for six pounds a share, or a total of 3.76 million pounds. Sir Frank now had a strategically important Sydney and Melbourne axis. No other station was able to reach a market of this size until 1979.

Frank Packer had gone into television reluctantly. He had bought TCN 9 out of a fear the new medium would take revenue away from his newspaper interests and had no idea what a money spinner Channel Nine would become. Channel Nine exceeded all expectations, it ran at a profit in 1958 and in 1959 delivered its first dividend. The secret to Nine’s early success was simple. The station relied heavily on cheap imported shows, mainly from the US, and kept material with Australian content to a minimum. Those shows that did have Australian content tended to be of a type that was cheap to produce. This included game shows, talent shows and sports and variety shows such as In Melbourne Tonight (IMT) (see Appendix I) which ran five nights a week between 1957 and 1971.

Many of the locally produced programs in the 1950s and 1960s went to air live and were never recorded. As a result much of Australia’s earliest years of television has been lost forever. In instances where live performances were recorded it was often achieved through a process called Kineying, where filming took place off television monitors. This naturally resulted in inferior standards. Imported material on the other hand was shared between stations, the 16mm film transported physically from one affiliated station to another.

The establishment of a coaxial cable link between Melbourne and Sydney in 1963 allowed the first effortless relay of transmission between capital cities. Nine made its inaugural telecast over the link in 1963 when it covered the November election tally, broadcasting simultaneously in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. The link was later used in a memorable episode of Don Lane’s Sydney Tonight and Melbourne’s IMT shows. The shows were broadcast simultaneously between the two capitals with split screens so hosts could banter with each other and swap acts. The cable was most used by Nine for show swapping, especially during the afternoon, some programs originating from Melbourne and others from Sydney. This greatly reduced Nine’s production costs as it was now able to broadcast to an audience comprising Australia’s two largest cities from one studio.

Kerry Packer’s Channel Nine

Kerry Packer inherited control of the Nine Network from his father at about the same time as the industry was bracing itself for the introduction of colour TV. Colour transmissions began on March 1, 1975 and proved to be so popular that by 1978 two-thirds of Australian viewers had bought a colour set. The introduction of colour increased the appeal of television to both the public and advertisers.

[The] Sydney-Melbourne television axis had become a cash generating phenomenon. With the spectacular profits from television that followed the introduction of colour television in 1975, Consolidated Press was awash with cash.

Colour television brought the screen to life and this was especially the case with sports. The Nine Network successfully broadcast tennis, rugby league and golf, jazzing them up a bit to make them less boring. The quality of the coverage was as good as, if not better than, anywhere else in world. The Australian Open provided a good example of this. In 1975 Packer bought rights to the event and personally put up 1 million dollars in prize money. He insisted on making the Australian Open a world class event and spared no expense. He hired Jack Nicklaus to redesign a course for him in Sydney and laid cables under it to improve communications. When the event went to air in October there was a camera on each of the eighteen holes. The coverage was amongst the best in the world and rated well enough to have attracted eighteen major sponsors by its second year, in the process returning a handsome dividend to its owner.

In the end it was not golf but cricket that was to become Nine’s flagship sporting event. Cricket had been the preserve of the ABC since the introduction of television in 1956. With this history in mind the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) did not take much notice of Channel Nine when it decided to bid for the rights in 1976. The ACB filed Nine’s bid in the bottom draw and signed the ABC on for a three-year contract at 207,000 dollars.

Kerry Packer was furious and organized to meet with the ACB. Ray Steele, one of the ABC’s key negotiators described the meeting: Kerry walked into the room and said, ‘I want totally exclusive television rights.’

And he was told, ‘Sorry, Mr. Packer, but you can’t have that.’ I’m sure he knew, because we’d written to him and told him that we had done a deal with the ABC.

And he was told, whilst we hadn’t signed the agreement, we had virtually shaken hands on the deal and there was no way we would go back on it.

Well he was bloody irate. His reply to that, I’ll never forget it, was, ‘We’re all harlots, how much do you want?’

Packer told the ACB that he was willing to pay 500,000 dollars a year for exclusive rights, more than seven times what the ABC was prepared to pay, and still he was knocked back. Packer, buoyed by his success with the Australian Open, decided to tackle the ACB head on. Channel Nine would stage its own competition to be called World Series Cricket (WSC).

At the time the ACB paid Australian test players a paltry wage. Whilst on the 1977 tour of New Zealand they received a meager 2,400 dollars and if picked for the ensuing tour of England they would receive a further 11,000 dollars. It is not surprising then that the players fell over each other to sign up for WSC even though the 25,000 dollars for twelve weeks work it offered seems insubstantial by today’s terms. Packer’s offer had snared 13 of the 17 strong Australian touring party, including the Captain, Greg Chappell. They had all managed to sign on secretly and Kerry did not announce his coupe until May 1977 when the Australian cricket team was about to commence the Jubilee Tests in England. The ACB was taken totally by surprise.

WSC had managed to sign up 50 of the world’s best players from England, Pakistan, the West Indies and South Africa. The ACB was left in disarray and was forced to field a second class team. The English Test and County Cricket Board responded to the signing up of "its" players by banning WSC competitors from official Test Cricket and County Cricket, labeling them, ‘disapproved persons’. Kerry Packer immediately challenged the ban and in a significant victory had it overturned by the courts.

WSC got off to a slow start. The first match was played on November 24, 1977, before a crowd of only 2,500. The event was staged at VFL Park on a hastily prepared pitch as it had proved difficult for the new competition to find world class venues. The two most prestigious grounds, the SCG and MCG, refused to host WSC claiming that it clashed with other events.

It was Neville Wran, the Labor Premier for New South Wales, who came to the rescue of WSC. In April 1978 he forced the SCG trust to allow WSC onto the ground. This trend was also replicated in Brisbane with WSC gaining access to the Gabba for the first time.

World class grounds gave WSC the credibility required to attract crowds and sponsorship. The first game of 1978 was an unqualified success, Australia’s first cricket match played under lights, 50,000 spectators flocked to the SCG. Ratings also began to climb, WSC had rated a paltry 5.3 percent of the audience in 1977, in the 1978-79 season that figure jumped to14 percent of the audience in Melbourne and 9 percent in Sydney.

Day and night cricket was designed primarily for television as it could be broadcast to a prime time audience. The lights also imbued the sport with a sense of theatre. Traditional cricket whites were replaced with bright clothes that were appropriate for colour television and eight cameras were used in order to improve coverage. Traditionally the ABC cameras mimicked the view of a ground spectator sitting in the most desirable position, behind the bowler and slightly elevated. Nine’s eight cameras provided views from a range of angles which included shots taken from behind the bowler that showed the batsman front on. This improved the quality of replays and when combined with Nine’s computerized statistics, interviews and voice-overs gave, The TV spectator…more privileged access to the game than the ground spectator…

Packer had turned cricket into a television event, it was no longer an independent event upon which television provided a window. Nine’s marketing executives came up with the anthem, "c’mon aussie, c’mon". They had also managed to sign on McDonalds, which promoted the event through their stores.

The ACB was had been badly bruised and began to adopt a conciliatory approach by the beginning of 1979. An armistice was eventually signed on May 30, 1979. Packer agreed to give his players back to the ACB in return for exclusive rights to all television, merchandising, marketing and sponsorship of cricket in Australia for the following 10 years. Exactly how much Nine had paid for the rights still remains a mystery

Sport became one of Nine’s most profitable ventures, cricket alone is estimated to have earned Nine over one million dollars a year during the early eighties. Furthermore the Australian Broadcasting Authority had defined sports (played in Australia) as Australian content. Each station is required to accumulate a certain number of quota points for Australian content in order to retain their license. There are however no regulations on the proportion of the programming in any one type of production. The following extract comes from Channel Nine’s 1978-79 annual report.

Because the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has…resisted…pressures…to impose rigid quotas for each type of production, the industry has been able to channel its resources into programs which it believed would develop an audience appeal and concentrate on quality of production rather than quantity.

Cricket added one point each hour of broadcast towards Nine’s Australian content quota whilst drawing between half and three quarters of the available audience. Tests and One-day internationals have won their slots 99 percent of the time. A mini series that received similar ratings would cost around 80 times as much to produce and even a cheap soap costs some 16 times as much.

Channel 9 can thus broadcast a few Australian programs which the imported ones do not compete with, such as…60 Minutes and The News…Because relatively more resources are put into few programs rather than being spread over more, such programs stand to rate well.

Packer had successfully won the rights to International Cricket, a sport of national appeal, but, due to the two-station rule, his audience reach was restricted to just 43 percent of the population. Packer could sell his footage to stations outside of Melbourne and Sydney but he had no control over their advertising. To make matters worse the 36 commercial stations in regional Australia were monopolies, their only competition coming from the ABC. Regional stations had three networks, Nine, Seven and Ten from which to buy programs from. It was a buyers’ market as the networks had more programs than they could sell and because regional stations held monopolies, national distribution was often achieved through accepting lower prices. Rural stations were to become Nine’s next target for expansion, after all, the Sydney and Melbourne stations had, …produced the majority of Australian programming at considerable cost and were understandably keen to have access to nationwide distribution networks.

Traditionally the technology required to send live programs to rural Australia was expensive. Coaxial cable was required for live transmission and this cost just as much to lay per kilometer to reach a city market as it did to reach a sparsely populated regional market. The cheapest way to get footage to regional stations was to fly it. That was until the advent of satellite technology

Kerry Packer commissioned a report by the consultant Donald Bond which was delivered to the Fraser Government in August 1977. The report was titled, ‘The Opportunity for Television Program Distribution in Australia using Earth Satellites’. The report argued for American styled TV networking, the three metropolitan commercial networks having access to the entire country, programs and advertising being centrally produced.

The Fraser and later the Hawke Governments both supported the report’s argument in favor of launching a satellite. The satellite would provide an estimated 300,000 people with access to television for the first time and 600,000 access to commercial television. In addition the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal had found, …commercial television in rural Australia…inferior to the service provided in…mainland metropolitan markets…it was on air…less than metropolitan stations and some of the most popular programs broadcast in the major markets are not broadcast in regional areas…

A satellite would give Nine access to a larger audience, facilitate centralization and cut costs.

In May 1985 the Hawke Government announced its policy of ‘equalization’. The policy advocated the provision of the same services to country areas as those available to city viewers, access to three commercial stations. Equalization was achieved through the abolition of the two-station rule, which was replaced, in November 1986, with a 75 percent ceiling on audience reach. Cross media laws were also introduced to prevent common ownership of print, radio and television. Under the new system, …media proprietors would have to choose whether they wished to be ‘princes of print’ or ‘queens of the screen’.

Kerry Packer and the Nine Network played an important part the policy’s formulation. Initially the Minister for Communications, Michael Duffy, proposed an audience limit of 43 percent. A 43 percent limit did not amuse Kerry Packer who wanted to expand Nine’s reach into rural Australia. Packer responded by successfully lobbying Hawke to challenge Duffy’s proposal, his media interests had not been overly critical of the Hawke Labor Government and Hawke perceived Packer as a valuable ally. Hawke was latter to say:  ‘Good on yer, Kerry…’you’ve been true blue.’

During one heated debate in Caucus over the Duffy plan Senator Button asked Hawke:  ‘Why don’t you tell us precisely how you want us to help your mates?’ Hawke replied: ‘Remember, they’re the only mates we’ve got.’

Bob Hawke’s personal regard for Kerry Packer may have been influenced by his factional allies in the NSW branch of the Labor Party. Either way the Nine Network benefited significantly from the new cross media laws, especially considering magazines were exempt from cross media regulation.

…the Hawke Government’s plans transformed the environment into a sellers’ market. Abolition of the two-station rule would overnight immensely increase the value of a pair of stations in Sydney and Melbourne as competitors rushed to establish national networks.

The new legislation led to an unprecedented upheaval in media ownership with almost every station changing hands for massive sums of money. Packer’s Nine Network was sold to the entrepreneur Alan Bond’s company Bond Media in December 1987 for an amazing 1055 million dollars, 805 million of which was in cash and 200 million in preference shares in Bond Media. Kerry Packer was later to say:  Eventually, Bond offered, ‘a deal I would have been an idiot to refuse. So I sold.’

In addition to GTV 9 and TCN 9 Bond also owned STW 9 Perth, QTQ 9 Brisbane and TNQ/FNQ Townsville/Cairns. Bond’s ownership of the Nine Network though was not to last long. Bond had built his media empire on borrowed money and a sharp increase in interest rates during the late 1980s made the repayment of that money extremely difficult despite Nine’s strong performance.

Much credit for that strong performance must go to Kerry Packer who had prepared Nine for full networking, an eventuality he saw as inevitable. Eighteen months prior to the sale of Nine 200 staff had been shed. Most of the job losses took place in Melbourne when he centralized advertising sales in Sydney and axed several Melbourne productions that did not have national appeal.

If Melbourne, with a population of three million, could be so rapidly rendered a kind of large relay station in the service of a Sydney-based network, how much more severe would be the fate of the smaller State capital cities’ stations or the 36 regionals?

Regional stations were forced to affiliate with one of the major networks in order to survive. The supply of programs from city based networks was no longer guaranteed as demand outstripped supply. Regional stations were not large enough to commission their own programs or outbid the networks for overseas shows. As a result Australia’s dominant television network, Nine, made massive inroads into regional markets either buying regional stations or forcing them into affiliation agreements which were not precluded in the 60 percent ceiling rule.

…the legal limit on ownership, as distinct from influence or control, was irrelevant…contractual relationships between affiliates and television networks are replacements for the ownership relationships that are legally precluded…

In the end it was Bond Media’s inability to pay out Kerry Packer’s 200 million dollars worth of preference shares that forced Nine into receivership. Once placed in receivership Kerry Packer was perfectly placed to regain control of the network. The finance sector had made many foolhardy loans during the 1980s which made raising capital difficult and any potential buyer of Bond Media would still have to pay out Packer’s 200 million dollars in preference shares. Packer had sold Channel Nine for over one billion dollars in 1987, by July 1990 he had bought a controlling share in the expanded network for just 200 million dollars.

Packer was quick to reassert his control, within three weeks forty-seven employees were axed and Coopers & Lybrand were called in to further reduce administration costs. Another one hundred staff left and a clear message was sent forth, the Nine Network would be run for shareholders only.

Nine has continued to dominate the television industry, consistently outperforming its competitors as Australia’s most profitable and highest rating television station. One of the secrets behind Nine’s success has been programming consistency. Nine, under both Kerry Packer and Bond, stuck to a mix of sport, news and current affairs. It has produced shows that have national appeal and face a minimum of competition from abroad. Nine’s Sunday program, Sixty Minutes and A Current Affair are excellent cases in point.

A mix of news, current affairs and sport have always been Nine’s strong suit. From its early days the emphasis derived from Sir Frank Packer’s deep interest in the three areas and if there was one lesson learned by his son Kerry…it was that if a thing works, don’t fix it.

Nine’s move towards Convergent Technology

During the 1990s the differences between various types of delivery technologies for the media began to blur. Major Australian newspapers began to appear on the internet, newspaper sections, such as The Age’s Good Weekend, increasingly competed with magazines and television sets could be wired into cable.

Traditionally telecommunications have been carried on copper pairs or cable networks whilst broadcasting has been by radio wave transmission…What we see now…is a merging of the transmission system with a complete interchange; of different forms of delivery technologies or a mix of several forms of transmission media. These are very often totally transparent to the end user…We see cable distribution for television…and the use of radio and microwave distribution for…traditional telecommunications services, telephone, telex etc…Thus it has become difficult – perhaps…impossible – to distinguish the boundaries between what are strictly broadcasting services and…strictly telecommunications services.

The phenomenon has been labeled as convergence and it has eroded the neat divisions between print, radio and television. Broadcasting-like services can now be delivered through satellite or, as in the case of the internet, via ordinary phone lines. As a result it is…

…no longer possible to regulate the media on the basis of delivery.

In the past it was easy to regulate television as there was a finite broadcasting spectrum. It was a scarce public resource so the Government could sell off licenses and regulate content. Convergence has totally undermined that concept as,  …new means of delivery…opens up the possibility of a multiplicity of channels. Thus the system of regulation which was built on one technology faces the potential of being undermined by the development of others

Nine made its commitment to these emerging technologies clear when it officially launched its internet site, NineMSN, on March 12, 1998. The site is run in partnership with Microsoft, the world’s largest software manufacturer. The internet has a global reach of approximately 60 million users and because the cross media and foreign ownership laws apply only to press, radio and television it is free from government regulation.

NineMSN will revolutionize Channel Nine. Already scripts from Nine programs, such as Sunday, are available on the site and NineMSN subscribers are invited to join interactive "Chats" with Nine Network personalities. Viewers are also given access to the most up to date news and sports coverage. In addition NineMSN links users to the Packers magazine empire with pages dedicated to Dolly and Cleo (for a full account of the services NineMSN offers see Appendix IV).

The NineMSM site, as it currently stands, has been designed to complement television rather than duplicate it over the net. A strategy that seems to revolve around the convergence of the home PC and television set. Programs such as Get Away, a travel program, will be able to do more then just introduce viewers to a tropical paradise. Viewers will also be able to book their tickets to a destination through NineMSN and take advantage of special NineMSM package offers. The potential to raise advertising revenue from this venture is almost unlimited.

NineMSN is positioned to become a shopping center of the future. Its Sidewalk section provides an up to date leisure guide to activities in Melbourne and Sydney, and brightly colored (often animated) banners transport users to advertisers’ home sites where they can buy goods and services with credit cards. The involvement of commercial giants such as Microsoft indicates that the days of amateur websites are numbered. They are set to vanish into obscurity as was the trend with amateur radio.

As the cost of bandwidth speed decreases the number of services available on the internet will expand. George Glider, in his article, The Bandwidth Tidal Wave, argues that the cost of bandwidth will drop faster than that of computer power, outpacing it over the next decade. Bill Gates stated in 1994 that, "We’ll have infinite bandwidth in a decade’s time."

It is bandwidth costs that have held back new internet services, such as video-on-demand, and not computing power (See Appendix III). If Bill Gates’ prediction proves correct then NineMSN is perfectly placed to become part of a whole new medium. It is a medium that can already be updated instantly from one centralized point, has an almost infinite audience reach and escapes government regulation. As bandwidth speed improves images and sound will replace text and the virtual world will gain a three dimensional substance.

The Federal Government’s decision in March 1998 to give the free to air networks a ten-year monopoly on digital television was an added boon to Nine. The capital investment required to commence digital broadcasting is significant but the ten year monopoly, held by commercial stations, should result in quick returns. The quality of the broadcast is said to be as great a leap forward for colour television, as colour television was from black and white. Digital TV will also be able to simultaneously display online content with television broadcasts.

Nine’s future looks assured, it already controls a dominant position in the free to air television industry and its decision to set up NineMSN in partnership with Microsoft proves that success has not made the network complacent.

 Throughout its history Nine has shown great innovation and a willingness to take calculated risks. This is a trait shared by the Packer family which has controlled the station, through its subsidiary PBL, for most of its history. Nine’s move onto the internet is an excellent example of its determination to use technology to its advantage. Nine’s real success comes not only from innovation and its clever use of the latest technology, it comes from Nine’s ability to use that technology to build upon a proven content formula. It is interesting that NineMSN’s structure consists mainly of a mix of sport, news and current affairs much the same as Nine’s. What convergence offers that formula is interaction, Nine has recognised that and this knowledge will help keep it ahead of its competitors.

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