Ed­die has a Hot date

Ed­die McGuire is back in the quiz biz and fac­ing a tough rat­ings bat­tle, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

NO­BODY, Ed­die McGuire in­sists, has higher ex­pec­ta­tions of him than the man him­self. Even those who’ve made a sport of crit­i­cis­ing the Colling­wood pres­i­dent and for­mer Chan­nel 9 chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (pic­tured) would have to con­cede he has a for­mi­da­ble com­pet­i­tive streak.

That will be ap­par­ent again on Mon­day, when McGuire re­turns to quiz show host­ing on Mil­lion­aire Hot Seat— a fast-paced re­vamp of Who Wants to be a Mil­lion­aire.

McGuire, never one to shy away from a stoush, is go­ing up against An­drew O’Keefe’s Deal or No Deal, which has had a stran­gle­hold on game and quiz show rat­ings.

While Nine is bank­ing on Hot Seat giv­ing it a strong lead-in to the net­work’s 6pm news bul­letin, there’s also a lot at stake for McGuire, who has made only in­ter­mit­tent ap­pear­ances on our screens since step­ping down from his 15-month stint as Nine boss in 2007.

In 2008, he ap­peared in some episodes of 1 v 100, in­ter­viewed Sam New­man for 60 Min­utes and had a week as fill-in host of A Cur­rent Af­fair. This year he has in­ter­viewed Greg Nor­man and Chris Evert for 60 Min­utes and hosted Nine’s bush­fire ap­peal.

Hot Seat is a 20-episode run, but looms as an op­por­tu­nity for McGuire to re­mind the net­work, and audiences, he’s the best in the busi­ness when it comes to host­ing ‘‘event’’ tele­vi­sion.

‘‘With Mil­lion­aire, you start with the best quiz show that’s ever been on tele­vi­sion— it’s the big hit­ter,’’ McGuire says.

‘‘You don’t want to di­min­ish what the show is. Ev­ery­thing that’s great about the orig­i­nal show is still there. With the new half-hour show, we’ve re­fined the life­lines and put a time limit on the first 14 ques­tions (lead­ing up to the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion). Whole new el­e­ments come into play. Ev­ery night a nice big chunk of cash is go­ing into some­one’s pocket.

‘‘There’s an amaz­ing warm­ing to this con­cept off the back of Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire (the Os­car­win­ning movie in which a teenager from Mum­bai hits the jack­pot on the quiz show).

‘‘I went to the cin­ema to see the movie. When the Mil­lion­aire mu­sic came on, every­one jumped.’’

Smil­ing, McGuire adds; ‘‘I was a bit dis­ap­pointed when the host turned out to be a prick.’’

A Guide visit to the set of Hot Seat sug­gests McGuire has cause to be op­ti­mistic about the show’s chances of suc­cess. While the orig­i­nal Mil­lion­aire for­mat was a slow-burn af­fair that traded heav­ily on the sus­pense built by a sin­gle con­tes­tant’s progress, Hot Seat is an ideal early-evening for­mat be­cause six con­tes­tants bat­tle it out at once for the cash. There’s a guar­an­teed win­ner each episode.

In or­der to win $1 mil­lion, 15 ques­tions must be an­swered cor­rectly. Each con­tes­tant takes turns in the hot seat an­swer­ing ques­tions of vary­ing dif­fi­culty. Con­tes­tants ro­tate when the com­peti­tor in the hot seat opts to pass on a ques­tion or an­swers in­cor­rectly.

Asked how he thinks the show will per­form against its op­po­si­tion, McGuire says: ‘‘I play to win ev­ery time. Never, at any stage, am I go­ing to be wor­ried about the op­po­si­tion. We are back­ing our­selves in.’’

Af­ter leav­ing the CEO job, a re­cur­rent theme in many me­dia re­ports about McGuire has been that he’s paid ex­tremely well (quoted as any­thing from $4 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion) for some­one who has spent so lit­tle time on air. Does the con­stant con­tract talk an­noy him? ‘‘It doesn’t even cross my mind,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s been a lot of things spec­u­lated about my con­tract that in most parts have been wrong.’’

You mean they un­der-es­ti­mate what you earn?

‘‘Yeah,’’ he adds with a laugh. ‘‘They write about it as if it’s af­ter tax.

‘‘Look, I don’t think peo­ple (pub­lic) care about that stuff, it’s just other peo­ple in the me­dia. Con­tracts are a two-way street. No­body ever put a gun to any­one’s head to sign a con­tract. If you have a con­tract in place it’s be­cause two par­ties shook hands and be­lieved it was a good deal for both par­ties. I like work­ing and would have been happy to come back on air straight af­ter fin­ish­ing as CEO.’’

McGuire must con­tend with the fact that some in the me­dia have been re­luc­tant to sup­port his re­cent ef­forts in TV and will be ea­ger to find fault with Hot Seat.

It’s a rea­son Nine has been cau­tious in its man­age­ment of McGuire be­cause it sus­pects if it places him in a flawed for­mat there could be a me­dia back­lash. McGuire backs Nine’s judg­ment on this. ‘‘It’s the case in any busi­ness,’’ he says. ‘‘Big de­ci­sions are not rushed into. If you (a net­work) think you have peo­ple in your or­gan­i­sa­tion who might have greater value than just one show, then you try to make sure you get the right shows for them be­cause if you can get those shows to work they can be mas­sive hits. If a first-timer ap­pears on a show that gets axed af­ter two weeks, no dam­age. They can go and do Big Brother or some­thing.

‘‘If it is a net­work star, and that’s not just talk­ing about my­self, that’s any of the net­work stars (de­ci­sions should be made with cau­tion). Chan­nel 7, for ex­am­ple, would ag­o­nise over putting David Koch into some­thing they weren’t quite sure was right for him.’’

McGuire took on the CEO role six weeks af­ter the death of Nine supremo Kerry Packer in De­cem­ber 2005 and was promised a man­date to boost an ail­ing pro­duc­tion sched­ule.

Hav­ing a re­al­is­tic crack at rec­ti­fy­ing Nine’s ills was al­ways go­ing to be tough. Tough be­came near-im­pos­si­ble when McGuire learnt his role was not go­ing to be so much about cre­at­ing new TV prod­uct, but im­ple­ment­ing sav­age cost-cut­ting.

A com­pany re­struc­ture — James Packer sell­ing down his in­ter­est in Nine to pri­vate eq­uity firm CVC Asia Pa­cific — had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on McGuire’s hopes of restor­ing shat­tered morale and lift­ing the net­work’s pro­duc­tion stocks.

He did, how­ever, man­age to play a cen­tral role in re-in­vig­o­rat­ing lo­cal drama pro­duc­tion, com­mis­sion­ing shows in­clud­ing Sea Pa­trol and Un­der­belly. Mil­lion­aire Hot Seat, PG Chan­nel 9, Mon­day, 5.30pm Re-in­vented quiz con­cept Du­ra­tion: 30 min­utes

ED­DIE McGuire was crit­i­cised heav­ily for his man­age­ment style in Ger­ald Stone’s (above) book, Chan­nel 9?

McGuire, how­ever, says it’s un­likely he will of­fer his own book.

‘‘I could write a rip­ping book about my time as CEO, per­son­al­i­ties and all sorts of things, but you don’t do that be­cause you’re in that chair in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion and I be­lieve there are a lot of things that should re­main con­fi­den­tial,’’ he says.

‘‘And that’s why I’ve never re­sponded to al­le­ga­tions. With Ger­ald’s book, I still haven’t read it be­cause I spoke to Ger­ald about it and he was go­ing at it from a par­tic­u­lar point of view.

‘‘That’s OK, Ger­ald’s a fan­tas­tic jour­nal­ist and he’s been able to do well with his book and it’s been ex­cit­ing for peo­ple out­side TV to think th­ese are the things that hap­pened.

‘‘For me, I’m not in any rush to dud peo­ple who came into my of­fice when I was CEO and trusted me, with a tell-all.

‘‘I have no in­ten­tion of turn­ing other peo­ple’s lives and sto­ries into a su­per­an­nu­a­tion fund for my­self.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.