Re­vamped To­day ‘more whim­per than bang’

The Australian - - THE NATION - LILLY VITOROVICH

The Nine Net­work’s re­vamped To­day break­fast show, co-hosted by two women for the first time in Aus­tralian TV his­tory, hit the small screen with a whim­per rather than a bang yes­ter­day, ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tives say.

Steve Allen, me­dia an­a­lyst at Fu­sion Strat­egy, said the show was “quite good” and he was sur­prised at some of the neg­a­tive com­ments on­line, or those of for­mer Sun­rise weather pre­sen­ter Grant Denyer on ra­dio. “I thought they were a bit more co­he­sive than the com­ments from the view­ing pub­lic, but the view­ing pub­lic knows best,” Mr Allen said.

He said film­ing the first show live from the Aus­tralian Open ten­nis tour­na­ment in Mel­bourne, rather than in the TV stu­dio in Syd­ney as usual also made things tricky for the new team, in­clud­ing re­cently ap­pointed co-host Deb­o­rah Knight and Ge­orgie Gard­ner.

“It’s very hard to get a team rhythm,’’ Mr Allen said.

Nine is broad­cast­ing the Aus­tralian Open for the first time after se­cur­ing the rights last year in a sur­prise move. For decades, Nine was the home of cricket, which is now on ri­val broad­caster Seven and pay-TV op­er­a­tor Foxtel.

Mr Allen said the changes to To­day hadn’t really been “rad­i­cal” and it would take a long time to catch up to its ri­val Sun­rise.

“This is a multi-year ef­fort. If they haven’t shown some re­sults in six months, you’d start to get wor­ried. But really this has to be judged over this year, com­pared to where they ended up and the av­er­age of last year,’’ he said.

“The prob­lem they’ve got is they haven’t been rad­i­cal really in their re­for­mat­ting of To­day, and when you’ve got a com­peti­tor that’s got mo­men­tum against you, and no changes in their for­mat, and each of the op­pos­ing crew know each other and have worked to­gether for years, it’s very hard to turn the tide on that.”

The To­day show had an av­er­age of 235,000 view­ers a day dur­ing the work­ing week last year.

Denyer said he didn’t be­lieve the new-look To­day show would suc­ceed in lur­ing view­ers back after bad pub­lic­ity around for­mer co-host Karl Ste­fanovic’s pri­vate life. “What you’ve got to re­mem­ber is that break­fast TV is en­ter­tain­ment first — it’s bright lights, it’s bright colours, there’s cash cows, there’s money be­ing thrown at you as a viewer … it’s a poker ma­chine is what it is,” he said on 2DayFM ra­dio yes­ter­day.

“You’ve now got two very ex­pe­ri­enced, se­ri­ous, won­der­ful in­ter­view­ers, in­cred­i­ble jour­nal­ists, but you don’t have en­ter­tain­ers.”

Denyer be­lieves the show needs a colour­ful char­ac­ter to en­ter­tain view­ers. “When To­day show was fly­ing — when it was chal­leng­ing Sun­rise’s 10-year reign — was when Karl was loose, he was drunk on air, he was muck­ing around,’’ Denyer said.

“But now they’re go­ing to flip it and go ‘straighty-one-eighty’ and I don’t think it will work in the break­fast mar­ket be­cause that’s what the ABC is for.”

Nicola Lewis, chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer of ad­ver­tis­ing com­pany GroupM in Aus­tralia, said it was “very early days for the new To­day show, and au­di­ences can be crit­i­cal of change”.

“It takes time for any new line- up on TV or ra­dio to gain loyal fol­low­ing but Nine has in­stalled a panel of re­spected broad­cast­ers to front its flag­ship break­fast show,’’ she said.

Steven Burl­ing, Nine’s direc­tor of morn­ing TV, said it was an “ex­tremely pos­i­tive first morn­ing”. “There are al­ways chal­lenges when pro­duc­ing an out­side broad­cast of this size and du­ra­tion, and our on­air team won­der­fully cov­ered any early hic­cups our pro­duc­tion team may have ex­pe­ri­enced be­hind the scenes,” he said.

To­day fea­tured jour­nal­ist Tom Ste­in­fort as its news­reader, sports pre­sen­ter Tony Jones and for­mer ABC jour­nal­ist Brooke Boney as en­ter­tain­ment re­porter.

The Nine Net­work’s re­vamped To­day break­fast show line-up mak­ing its de­but yes­ter­day: en­ter­tain­ment re­porter Brooke Boney, left, sports pre­sen­ter Tony Jones, co-hosts Deb­o­rah Knight and Ge­orgie Gard­ner, and news­reader Tom Ste­in­fort

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