“They are the hardest working news presenters in the country, because they are here at breakfast and here at dinner time,” says managing director David Mott.
Since mid-March Nine has been presenting two locally produced half-hour bulletins at 7am and 8:30am sandwiched in the middle of the Today show. After decades of dominance by the Seven Network in the Perth market, the move was part of Nine’s softly-softly attempt to make some in-roads, after purchasing the station from WIN last year.
But it means McMillan and Stone, who joined from QTQ in April, are on site from the early hours until evening. For such dedication, you’d be hoping to see some improvement in the all-important numbers.
On Wednesday, Nine had its first win over Seven for its 7:00-7:30am bulletin. Nine averaged 41,000 / 36,000 for the two quarter hours while Seven was 22,00 / 22,000.
Nine acknowledges it’s but a dip in the ratings ocean, but is encouraged by some upward movement.
“We have a mountain to climb here in Perth and it’s great to take those first steps and see such encouraging growth. It’s terrific the people of Perth are enjoying our local live Today Perth News bulletins,” said Tim McMillan.
For the OzTAM numbers, which lump the bulletins in with Today‘s share, Nine still lost to Seven. Sunrise averaged 39,000 from 7-9am and Today was 35,000. But Mott says having the only local Live content is working for the overall station brand.
“I’m the first to say this is only one day. We’re still in the building phase of that transition of being a truly national programme to a combination of creating local news,” he told TV Tonight.
“I find it extraordinary that the broadcasters here didn’t care about the viewers at breakfast time. To be perfectly honest when they are all on 2 and 3 hour delays it’s an absolute nonsense that there wasn’t a live up to date news service, and a local one.”
The Today Perth News includes National / International news, local news, traffic and weather, preceded by a live throw by Today‘s Karl and Lisa.
“It’s just about finding an opportunity to grow our brand, rather than just between 6 and 7pm,” he said.
“We just felt that the public deserved it.
“We’ve seen in recent weeks it’s been growing to get a loyal audience, but like anything it takes time for people to know it’s there.”
As McMillan notes, there is still a mountain to climb. In Perth Sunrise has averaged around double the audience of Today for years. Nationally it is enjoying a resurgence while Today has lost ground, sometimes with a margin of around 100,000 viewers.
Since the introduction of the breakfast Perth bulletins, Today has increased 3,000 in Perth, while Sunrise has increased by 8,000 -presumably both taking share from the now-defunct Wake-Up.
Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell reiterated Seven always switches to live news in Perth for big breaking news.
“We are very grateful to the people of Perth for continuing to make Sunrise their first choice for breakfast,” he said.
But David Mott, former TEN chief programmer, knows the value of branding across the big picture. He says Nine’s primetime news -where the numbers matter most- are up 6.7% while Seven is down 6.4%.
The weekly channel share is up 2.3% this year in the Perth market.
“It’s the highest growth of any station in Australia this year,” he explains.
“(Seven) are still in a commanding position, we understand that, and we still have a long way to go.
“(Seven’s) Rick and Susannah have been reading news together for 30 years. So we understand we have a job to do but it’s trending in the right direction.”