Break­fast gets se­ri­ous

The bat­tle for break­fast-TV supremacy brings on a makeover at Sun­rise, writes Erin McWhirter

Herald Sun - Switched On - - OUT OF THE BOX -

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.

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