Breakfast gets serious
The battle for breakfast-TV supremacy brings on a makeover at Sunrise, writes Erin McWhirter
DAVID Koch and Melissa Doyle’s success in knocking off the Today show in the breakfast TV ratings has been well documented.
For nearly 20 years, the newsdriven Today ruled the roost, but was sent into a frenzied meltdown when Koch and Doyle’s ‘‘daggy’’ Sunrise took the No.1 position.
Over six years, Sunrise has remained No.1 nationally, but is suddenly under pressure to re-invent itself.
Today’s executive producer, Tom Malone, doesn’t want to get into a slanging match with his opposition, but says ratings speak for themselves.
Today, fronted by Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic, has spent the past two years chipping away at Sunrise and has narrowed the ratings gap considerably.
Since 2007, the Today show has increased viewer numbers, enjoying a 7.5 per cent rise in last year’s ratings, whereas Sunrise had a 2.3 per cent drop.
However, at the end of the year Sunrise won, with an average viewing audience of 371,000 to Today’s 304,000.
‘‘It ( Sunrise) has been light and fluffy and all about entertainment,’’ Malone says.
‘‘The show has been all about Kochie and Mel and they haven’t used their years ahead (in ratings) to build content in the show. Content is king and maybe that’s why they are reverting to a more serious and professional approach this year.’’
Sunrise has been splashing money on expensive sets, logos and expanding their bureaus to have a news correspondent in Melbourne and Brisbane. The show’s executive producer, Adam Boland, says the focus is to be more professional and deliver more news this year.
In Melbourne, a market in which Today consistently beats Sunrise, 3AW’s morning-radio king Neil Mitchell and former Geelong player Tom Harley will be Sunrise regulars.
‘‘Melbourne has been the weakest for us,’’ Boland says. ‘‘Brisbane is by far the most dominant. There is a lot of energy going into Melbourne and we hope to make ground down there. People such as Neil will travel nationally, but Melbourne will have its own point of view inside a seamless show.’’
New York’s Jim Fenhagen, the man behind designing the CBS Early Show, The Colbert Report and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, flew to Australia to design the set.
Gone will be the ‘‘mummsy’’ Melissa Doyle and the ‘‘daggy’’ David Koch viewers have come to love and in their place will be the less ‘‘self-indulgent’’ presenters on a more mature program because ‘‘we’ve grown up’’, Boland says.
‘‘I think you will find they (Doyle and Koch) will be more professional. I know that is a strange thing to say because both are extraordinarily professional, but the show will have more pace about it,’’ Boland says.
The more serious approach to Sunrise will also expose the journalistic backgrounds of Doyle and Koch on a daily basis.
‘‘I want to see the smart Kochie,’’ Boland says. ‘‘I know him as the smartest guy I’ve ever met and I want viewers to see that. The same with Mel. She has extraordinary experience, not only as a mum, but as a journalist and I think that balance wasn’t happening. She was becoming too mummsy almost. I think that is a producer problem because we’ve focused on certain elements of their personality.’’ Mother of two Doyle, 39, agrees. ‘‘I’m a journalist, not just a talking head,’’ says Doyle, who this year marks 20 years in journalism.
‘‘I hope the audience see us (this year) for the journalists we are.’’
At Today, Wilkinson says the program has found its groove.
Though Sunrise is having a facelift, Today doesn’t feel the need to revamp. ‘‘The show definitely has its own personality now and its own energy,’’ Wilkinson, says.