Are we getting sick of Eddie McGuire?
CHANNEL 9's makeover of its all-important news lead-in, Hot Seat, has failed to bridge the gap on Seven's rival quiz show, The Chase Australia.
Despite a desperate attempt to refresh the Hot Seat format earlier this year, the experiment has flopped - with network insiders confirming the changes are now unlikely to save the Eddie McGuire-hosted game show long term.
It is understood Nine's programming executives, including director of television Michael Healy, are shopping for new TV options at the international media marketplace, MIPCOM, in France, where producers pitch new formats to broadcasters from around the world.
Their urgent search comes after figures revealed the new hour-long Hot Seat lost every week of its ratings battle to The Chase Australia since the official audience survey began mid-February.
While Nine tried bedding down its changes when Seven was committed to its Australian Open tennis coverage back in January, once The Chase returned to its afternoon line-up on February 13, Seven's quiz show immediately pulled ahead - averaging 440,000 viewers across the five-city metro markets to Hot Seat's 391,000.
In the two months since, The Chase's lead has blown out by nearly 100,000 viewers on average each week, with media analyst Steve Allen blaming viewer fatigue for the recent decline.
"It's getting a bit long in the tooth when essentially it all revolves around the host and the prize money," Allen said.
While McGuire has lead the program to great success - seeing off two earlier challenges from Seven in Deal Or No Deal and Million Dollar Minute - Allen argued the high times don't last.
"[Eddie's] delivered that network millions of viewers over the years but it can't go on forever," he said.
While Hot Seat relies on McGuire as its solo host, the success of The Chase is the combination of presenter Andrew O'Keefe (who has a profile across Seven's schedule seven days a week) and the line-up of 'Chasers' including Brydon Coverdale, Anne Hegerty, Matt Parkinson, Issa Schultz and Mark Labbett.
Angus Ross, Seven's director of network programming, hailed his show's hosts and format.
"Natural quiz hosts are a rare breed and no one does it better than Andrew - he instinctively understands the drama, humour, pace and storytelling that a quiz requires," while viewers are also attracted to the show's "rapid fire questions and the best end game on television".
Channel 9 declined to comment on the future of the program, celebrating its past as the "longest running quiz show on Australian television" instead.
Claiming the show was "enjoyed by more than half a million Australians every day" a Nine spokesman said it had "given away more than $40 million in prize money."