Entertainment TV The Today show, breakfast TV and whether anyone cares any more

The Today show, breakfast TV and whether anyone cares any more

Sunrise stars 2019 Logies
Sunrise stars David Koch, Sam Armytage, Natalie Barr and Mark Beretta at the 2019 Logies. Photo: Getty
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Just over six months ago, Nine relaunched its Today show to fanfare and expectation.

Karl Stefanovic and Richard Wilkins were gone, Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight were at the helm.

Fingers were crossed that a fresh look would stop plummeting ratings.

But Today’s fortunes are still flagging, with the new team failing to gain traction or an audience.

Last Friday, Seven crowed that its David Koch and Samantha Armytage-helmed Sunrise is still the No.1-rating breakfast show, with a combined regional and metro audience of 459,000 compared to Today’s 313,000.

Top ranking in the morning TV stakes has always been highly valued. But instead of making dramatic changes to try and win back viewers, execs at Nine seem to be sitting tight.

Could it be Nine’s focus shifted to their slew of reality juggernauts (Married at First Sight, Lego Masters, Australian Ninja Warrior), and morning TV has taken a back seat?

The all-but entire cast change at Today has drawn renewed media interest in the fates and performance of breakfast television, says Steve Molk, viewer’s advocate at TVBlackbox.

With huge star salaries, “brekky programs are funded well beyond the expectations of other programs,” he tells The New Daily.

“It’s a hangover from the days when people would turn off their TV in the morning and then switch it on and leave it on the same channel that night.

“That spend versus audience and retention means the spotlight very rightly should be on brekky TV, let alone for the content and how good or controversial it might be”.

Nine program director Hamish Turner denies the success of the network’s reality TV offering has pulled focus from breakfast TV.

Today and Married at First Sight play very different functions for the network across multiple platforms,” he tells The New Daily, adding the “doomsday headlines” about Today’s ratings are clickbait.

“When evolving a legacy brand it always takes time for the audience to engage and settle – news viewing is routine based,” he says.

“In reality our ratings for the months of June and July are only down slightly on where they were this time last year.”

The stable line-up of Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowland at dark horse News Breakfast has appealed to audiences although Trioli is departing to become presenter of Mornings on ABC Radio Melbourne.

TV analyst David Knox from TV Tonight believes morning TV is still a priority for networks as there’s considerable revenue to be made, especially in advertorials.

Each morning TV show is not only battling rival stations for viewers, “there’s an argument that they have bigger competition from the 8.10 train and breakfast radio,” says Mr Knox.

Today is increasing its web presence to cater to the shifting market, says Nine’s Mr Turner.

“We have a team dedicated to the ‘off-platform’ strategy for Today. The show remains highly profitable to Nine and writes a great deal of revenue through both on and off network platforms.”

There’s plenty of room for improvement in the morning shows’ online offerings, Mr Molk says: “If you want to live stream Sunrise or Today you can. But who wants to sit on their morning commute and watch that?

“Smarter media organisations are packaging the news and making it available on social to suit shorter attention spans.”

He believes while Today’s signing of two female anchors was “smart and bold”, the biggest problem with commercial breakfast TV offerings is they are “risk averse” and “not willing to try new things”.

The result? Nothing ever changes.

There are opportunities to engage with “younger markets and changing attitudes”, Mr Molk says, but it takes “hard work and money and commitment”.

Breakfast TV “has the potential to set the news agenda for the day and neither program has done that in years, other than when they create their own controversy accidentally,” he adds.

“Lots of people work very hard on these programs and should be commended. Their bosses need to start listening to them for new ideas and give them a chance to execute them.”

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