Nine CEO David Gyngell concedes Nine went too far with Tom Waterhouse

John Stedman and David Gyngell

David Gyngell speaking to John Steedman at Mumbrella360

Channel Nine CEO David Gyngell has conceded mistakes made by allowing Tom Waterhouse to spruik live odds with commentators during NRL matches.

Waterhouse had become the lightning rod for the debate, Gyngell told the audience, however he also argued that it was not the network’s place to be “wowsers” when it came to legal activities such as gambling, smoking and alcohol.

“We believe we have got a moral compass to provide to the community, but at the same time we don’t have a wowser barometer either to tell you all to suck eggs, it is a free world you should be able to smoke, drink and gamble whenever you want to or do whatever you think, within the laws,” Gyngell told GroupM’s chairman and CEO John Steedman during a discussion at the Mumbrella360 conference this morning.

However he admitted Channel Nine might have overstepped the mark by featuring Waterhouse among the commentators.

“I probably got too driven on sport, you know what your watching, you want the information, without the thought that there are a lot of kids watching they’re absorbing this and this is not good information for them so we’ve pulled back from that now and I think that’s the right balance,” he said.

Although Waterhouse’s rate of advertising was not much more than TAB or other betting organizations, it was the way he is and his advertising that made him the lightning rod for the debate said the Nine Entertainment CEO.

“I think we over-egged it and I think we’ve pulled back from it. And personally and emotionally, being the father of a new child, I don’t want my child to saying all the odds either, but at the same time, it’s the way you do it. People are allowed to receive information. It’s legal if it’s done properly. I think we pushed it too far, I respect that. But I think equally we all go jumping on the bandwagon of something that has been around for a while, if you don’t like it its still horrific to you as far as the people are concerned.”

Gyngell also spoke about the network’s recent success in securing a $400 million cricket sports deal arguing the deal was something the network had to do.

“It’s good business to do it. It’s passionate and emotional for Channel Nine to do it. We’re as much cricket as cricket is Nine the two of us are combined,” he said.

“Sports a must have. When you pay the most at an auction I don’t call that winning I say that’s doing what you have to do to maintain and keep something. But sport and free to air sport news and current affairs and local production is what defines it.”

He said cricket has a bigger impact than the ratings always give it, and said it’s like a “wallpaper” on in the background throughout the summer, and has significant advertising impact.

Gyngell also spoke about how this was the first time Nine had secured the digital rights to a major sporting event and in a partnership with Cricket Australia and said the network would put significant investment into sales, marketing and integration to give advertisers digital links and interactions with the consumer.

He also committed to local content telling the audience it will be the next big push for Channel Nine.

“We’re at a crossroads in Australia at the moment, it’s all about local content. They want to see local content and sport news and those things, and my next big push is going to be making more local product,” Gyngell said.

Gyngell said his passion for Nine motivated him during the difficulties faced last year as the business was almost pushed into insolvency.

“To contemplate letting a company that was making great money, that has a history of our brand in Channel Nine be put into bankruptcy because two parties that didn’t give a shit about it really on a long term basis, I wouldn’t do that to my staff to start with. There’s a lot of proud people that tried for those gates. At the various stations around the country are proud to say they have worked there,” he said.

“So sometimes you don’t let go and if youre playing against the hand of people who don’t know the game that you know. You have opportunities to push them and in (Atrium and Apollo’s) defense they could clearly see I wasn’t going to just roll over and do a deal into a ‘light-touch insolvency’ because it’s not a light touch as far as I’m concerned its an embarrassment and embarrassments are not what you want to put your staff through.”

Megan Reynolds


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