Revamped Today ‘more whimper than bang’
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