After a shaky start back in 2009 Peter Overton has proven to be Sydney’s most popular news reader, spearheading 9 News to a decade of dominance.
There are two types of people in the television business – those who deserve success and the rest. No-one would deny Peter Overton deserves every bit of success.
The journalist, who has been at Channel 9 for 29 years, took over the 6pm news during a grim period in the broadcaster’s history. After the departure of Brian Henderson and the loss of Ian Ross to Channel 7, Nine found itself no longer the number one network. Indeed, by the time Overton took over 9 News Sydney the bulletin had become a distant number two.
But this week Overton and the team of producers working behind the scenes celebrate ten years at the top. Led by the competitive Darren Wick and news-hound Simon Hobbs, the Sydney news bulletin has never given up its dominance as it continues to evolve and tailor to the changing needs of its audience.
In the 40 week battle, Nine has just clocked up its 21st week. Although Seven has also used the measurement in the past, you can expect them to hold off conceding until the end of the year when the average weekly audience is announced (which Nine is still expected to win).
“I still love going to work every single day” – Peter Overton
In an exclusive interview on The Ben, Rob & Robbo Show (full interview below) Overton describes his time in the chair:
“It’s been a fabulous experience, I love every day of it and it only makes you work harder when you’re running second because you’ve got a goal and then when you get there you’ve gotta keep working even harder.”
Taking to twitter today to celebrate the milestone, Sydney News Director Simon Hobbs tweeted out some interesting stats, saying 9 News had won 351 weeks out of 380.
It’s an impressive feat.
I am very proud to announce that @9NewsSyd has won the ratings for the 10th straight year.— Simon Hobbs (@SimonHobbs9) July 17, 2020
Since 2011, there have been 380 ratings weeks. 9News Sydney has won 351 of them. It’s a credit to the incredible team I work alongside of. You are the best of the best. Congrats. pic.twitter.com/VZIZYPwFOP
At the end of 2008 it was acknowledged something had to change at Nine. The network had become a media punching bag and David Gyngell, who had returned to take up the role of CEO, was determined to get things back on track.
Part of his plan was to fix the news bulletin. I had an amazing opportunity to be part of the process when I was employed to produce the news promos.
One of the first things that became clear was the plan to put Overton in the chair. Under the cover of secrecy, I had to film and produce a new promo announcing his appointment. It was all cloak-and-dagger stuff. When I rang Pete he exclaimed “well, now I know it’s really happening’.
Since that moment we would become firm friends and share an amazing journey with Wickie, Hobbsie, Mary, Calvert, Josie and many others in the newsroom as we changed the way the bulletin was promoted and produced.
Darren Wick really reshaped the bulletin with a new a new style of delivery and presentation. In the early years he was reporting to then News Director Mark Calvert and both were intent on working as hard as possible to reclaim the number one spot.
Mark had made many positive changes to the newsroom and when he decided to leave it was only natural for Darren Wick to take his place.
As the bulletin evolved the style of promos had to evolve too. The See It First on 9 News campaign came from a truth. I would watch both the Nine and Seven bulletins every night and noticed Seven would run stories that Nine had broken days earlier.
The campaign used footage from the 7 News bulletins and 9 News bulletins to prove the statement was true – you really did SEE IT FIRST on 9 News.
With a strong promotional push and major changes both on air and off, all the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. The hunger to deliver compelling content drove the entire newsroom and there was a real energy in the Willoughby newsroom.
As Overton says:
“We do our very best and keep doing your very best, don’t be despondent when things aren’t going your way and I believe that’s the way success is achieved.”
In 2011 came the first yearly win. Major gains had been made during the proceeding two years but momentum was growing and 9 was able to claim the year. It was a devastating blow to Seven, which then started copying Nine, from the SEE IT FIRST campaign to the delivery of the bulletin.
Nine continued to lead the way and although the race was tough at times, this talented group of people have proven time-and-time again the understand what the audience wants.
As news Director Simon Hobbs pointed out in an e-mail to staff:
“This score line makes it look like a blowout. But, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s been a dog fight each and every day. The only reason we have kept our heads in front is because of your hard work. Each of you play an important role. Your hard work, talent, and commitment to excellence is what’s made the difference.
“And those qualities have never been more evident than in 2020.”
10 years at the top is really something to celebrate. Congratulations to all at 9 News from TV Blackbox.