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Breakfast TV: How Sunrise became complacent and let Today catch up in the ratings

After years spent languishing in the ratings, Nine’s Today show is finally closing the gap with Channel Seven’s Sunrise.

Fronted by Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, the once-struggling breakfast program has been steadily growing its audience in recent weeks. 

While it remains in second place behind Sunrise, which is hosted by Sam Armytage and David ‘Kochie’ Koch, the figures suggest that Today is on track to steal the top spot.  

Are Sunrise’s days of supremacy numbered? The once-beleaguered Today show has been steadily rising in the ratings in recent weeks. Pictured: Today’s Karl Stefanovic, Ally Langdon

TV Blackbox editor Rob McKnight, a former senior executive at Nine, believes the growth of Today in recent weeks ‘will be of concern’ for Sunrise bosses.

‘Karl and Ally have great chemistry and the production team have worked hard to slowly evolve the show and those changes are paying off,’ McKnight said.

‘Sunrise won’t go down without a fight though. Executive producer Michael Pell and his team will work hard and make changes to ensure viewers choose Sunrise for breakfast.’     

Closing the gap: While the program remains a firm second place behind Sunrise, which is helmed by Samantha Armytage and David Koch, OzTam ratings suggest Today isn't far behind taking the top spot. Pictured: Sunrise's Samantha Armytage, David 'Kochie' Koch

Closing the gap: While the program remains a firm second place behind Sunrise, which is helmed by Samantha Armytage and David Koch, OzTam ratings suggest Today isn’t far behind taking the top spot. Pictured: Sunrise’s Samantha Armytage, David ‘Kochie’ Koch

McKnight believes that viewers are switching from Sunrise to Today in part because Sam and Kochie are only working four days a week.

In June, Sam’s on-air duties were reduced from five days per week to four. Kochie also works the same hours, albeit on different days, meaning the two anchors only appear alongside each other three days a week.

This could be a problem for Sunrise, argues McKnight, because viewers ‘like consistency’ and want to see the same team every day of the week.

Industry insight: Leading TV commentator Rob McKnight, a former senior executive at Nine, believes the growth of Today in recent weeks 'will be a concern' for 'Australia's No. 1' Sunrise

Industry insight: Leading TV commentator Rob McKnight, a former senior executive at Nine, believes the growth of Today in recent weeks ‘will be a concern’ for ‘Australia’s No. 1’ Sunrise

‘Viewers like consistency and probably are unsure who they’re going to see in the [Sunrise] hosting chair from one day to the next,’ he said.

This isn’t the case with Today, which is hosted by Karl and Allison every weekday. 

On Tuesday, the margin between Today and Sunrise’s ratings in the five-city metro market reached its narrowest so far this year. 

While Sunrise was the most-watched breakfast show (259,000), Today wasn’t far behind (231,000).

Man on a mission: Today's Karl Stefanovic looked focussed and determined as he left Channel Nine studios in Sydney on Wednesday

Man on a mission: Today’s Karl Stefanovic looked focussed and determined as he left Channel Nine studios in Sydney on Wednesday 

'Viewers like consistency': As for why more viewers are switching to Today, McKnight suggests it may have something to do with Samantha and Kochie's working hours

‘Viewers like consistency’: As for why more viewers are switching to Today, McKnight suggests it may have something to do with Samantha and Kochie’s working hours

Today also beat Sunrise’s audience in two out of the five major cities – reaching 64,000 viewers in Melbourne (Sunrise: 59,000) and 56,000 in Brisbane (Sunrise: 46,000). 

A week earlier, Today had claimed victory in the east coast capitals of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, pulling an average audience of 191,000 combined – which was more than Sunrise’s 189,000.

These figures represent a triumphant leap in the ratings for Today, which had previously dragged around 70,000 viewers behind Sunrise back in June.

Edging closer: On Tuesday, the margin between Today and Sunrise's ratings in the five-city metro market reached an all-time low for this year

Edging closer: On Tuesday, the margin between Today and Sunrise’s ratings in the five-city metro market reached an all-time low for this year 

McKnight says that Today’s victory in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (unofficially called the ‘three-city metro market’) ‘cannot be underestimated because most advertising is bought with a focus on the East Coast’.

‘So while Perth and Adelaide are so strong for Seven, advertisers are more focused on every other market,’ he added.

Speaking to investors last week, Channel Nine’s CEO, Hugh Marks, commented on Today’s progress over the past nine months.

‘If you look at morning segments, Today show numbers are up around 10 or 15 per cent year on year and continuing to grow. Karl and Ally are doing a good job there for us,’ Marks said. 

Meanwhile, Today is also back in second place after falling behind ABC News Breakfast earlier this year.

Second place today, first place tomorrow?  Today is also back in second place after falling behind ABC News Breakfast earlier this year

Second place today, first place tomorrow?  Today is also back in second place after falling behind ABC News Breakfast earlier this year

After Today placed third in the ratings for 14 out of 28 weeks this year, Nine’s director of morning television, Steven Burling, said in July that he wouldn’t be happy until they topped the ratings – but he hastened to add that Today was on the right track.

Burling tweeted: ‘I won’t be happy with the ratings till we’re #1, but I’m certainly satisfied with a 10 per cent lift in numbers this year.

‘We have world-class hosts and a committed and dynamic production team – I’m extraordinarily proud of all of them.’ 

Marathon, not a sprint: Nine's director of morning television, Steven Burling, said in July that he wouldn't be happy until they topped the ratings - but he hastened to add that Today was on the right track

Marathon, not a sprint: Nine’s director of morning television, Steven Burling, said in July that he wouldn’t be happy until they topped the ratings – but he hastened to add that Today was on the right track

Despite Today’s success, it must be noted that Sunrise has won every week and every day of 2020 and has long been the most-watched breakfast TV show nationally and in the major cities.

‘Sunrise will claim the year, that’s done and dusted, but now we have a more interesting battle as Today starts its comeback,’ McKnight said. 

‘For all the doubters, Karl Stefanovic is proving the haters wrong.’ 

Axed: Karl was sacked from the Today show in December 2018 after his personal life was blamed for the declining ratings

Axed: Karl was sacked from the Today show in December 2018 after his personal life was blamed for the declining ratings

Karl was sacked from the Today show in December 2018 after his personal life was blamed for the declining ratings.

But he was reinstated as co-anchor in January this year, alongside Allison. 

In a promo released last December, Karl told viewers that Today would focus more on delivering hard news stories, as well as a few laughs, in 2020.  

Comeback Karl: He was was reinstated as co-anchor in January this year, alongside Ally

 Comeback Karl: He was was reinstated as co-anchor in January this year, alongside Ally

‘We can’t wait to tell you all the news, all the important stuff in the day, but send you off with a laugh,’ Karl said. 

Allison added: ‘We just provide a bit of fun, but you know when the big stories break, we have got it covered.’ 

Channel Nine and Seven declined to comment.  

'We can't wait to tell you all the news, all the important stuff in the day, but send you off with a laugh': Karl told viewers that Today would focus more on delivering hard news stories, as well as a few laughs along the way in 2020

‘We can’t wait to tell you all the news, all the important stuff in the day, but send you off with a laugh’: Karl told viewers that Today would focus more on delivering hard news stories, as well as a few laughs along the way in 2020 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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