EXCLUSIVE: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will appear in a weekly segment on the revamped Sunrise.
Executive Producer Adam Boland told TV Tonight, the Prime Minister would answer live viewer questions each week.
“It’s a ‘Direct Democracy’-style of segment. This has never been done before: he will be answering viewers’ questions directly but not via email or text message, but Live. We will put cameras into the homes of our viewers,” he said.
“There will be three viewers chosen every week and we’ll go to them. So if they’re in Small Business or in their homes, wherever they are, they will put their questions live and direct to the Prime Minister. They will be entitled to one follow-up question each. The question will be without notice. The Prime Minister will have no prior warning to what the questions are.”
Rudd was formerly a regular guest on Sunrise but ended his participation when he became Opposition Leader. A weekly television appearance will mirror what politicians, including John Howard, have been doing on talkback radio for years.
The Seven morning show relaunches on Monday morning with a new set, new graphics and new format. As revealed last October, the new set is being overseen by Jim Fenhagen, from Production Design Group in New York City. His credits include The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, CBS Early Show, Anderson Cooper 360, The Martha Stewart Show and Sky News.
“Sets don’t win ratings but I’m hoping it will send a message that we have a very different show on offer in 2010,” says Boland.
“From my point of view I was very keen to re-establish a point of difference. Our opponents have very successfully copied every last frame of our show, as Karl Stefanovic happily conceded late last year on Sydney radio.
“We’re flattered but from a viewer’s point of view they deserve two very different shows for breakfast.”
This week Sunrise is broadcasting from the Australian Open, giving the Martin Place studio a week to install its new set which has been built in a warehouse for the past eight weeks.
Seven research has tracked audience trends, enabling new content changes to address shifts in viewing patterns.
Back in 2001 breakfast television viewers watched an average of 8-11 minutes.
“People were tuning in just to get their weather and the latest headlines. Fast forward to now and the average viewing time for our show is 30-40 minutes,” says Boland.
“There is more pressure than ever being placed on our producers to deliver more original content particularly same day content. We’re opening bureaus in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. There will be live reporters in each of those cities who will start work everyday at 4am. They’ll be expected to contribute live reports to the show every morning, so if a story is breaking there is no excuse now not to have them covered. And they will be backed up by live resources in their respective towns.”
Boland says as much as 30% of Sunrise will be programmed on the morning it goes to air.
“There will be big gaps in the rundown when we sign off the night before. That’s never been done before on our channel or any other channel. Much of the breakfast shows in this country are programmed the day before by daytime producers.”
The revamp also comes at a time when Nine’s Today show has been making significant inroads into Sunrise‘s lead. Nine’s breakfast offering regularly wins in Melbourne, where it declared another win in 2009. It is also seriously competitive in Sydney, diminishing Sunrise‘s annual share.
But an upbeat Boland says Sunrise still hasn’t lost a single week of ratings in six years.
“In order to protect that record we needed to inject new life into the show. I didn’t want to be the Today show –they simply became complacent, so when a show like Sunrise came along, they were very easy to tip over because they just kept doing the same old thing.
“We don’t believe simply because we’re in the leadership position that the show should stay the same.”
The new-look set will feature a fully wooden floor, be more selective about its use of the goldfish-bowl streetview, and give The Morning Show a new set as a result. Hosts David Koch and Melissa Doyle are expected to take a more serious presenting tone this year.
And when it launches on Monday, Boland hints at another big change.
“There is one big, big rabbit that we’re going to pull out of the hat on Monday,” he said.
“It’s an addition to our presenting line-up. He will be a stunning addition to the show and a lot of people will be very happy.”
Sunrise relaunches at 6am Monday on Seven.
UPDATED: This story has since been picked up by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian, Brisbane Times, Herald Sun and News.com.au. Particular thanks to The Age, Crikey and Mumbrella for acknowledging this site as source.