The hidden clue in Today’s former ratings
When Lisa joined Karl, the gap with Sunrise was much bigger than it is now.
Friday was another record low for Today.
At 165,000 viewers, it becomes the lowest number ever for a 7-9am block in a survey year.
But while that’s clearly a concerning figure, there is a point often overlooked when media are writing up punishing headlines….
When Lisa Wilkinson joined Karl Stefanovic on the Today show the gap from Sunrise was bigger than it is now, and yet it built to become competitive.
Back in 2007 TV viewing overall was higher. Sunrise was averaging 410,000 in the 5 city metro and Today was a long way behind at 254,000 -a gap of 156,000 viewers.
Last week Sunrise averaged 287 ,000 while the new-look Today was 181,000 -a gap of 106,000 viewers.
During Lisa Wilkinson’s first year with Karl Stefanovic the gap grew as wide as 174,000 viewers. It took two years before Today even had a win over Sunrise.
The show grew against Seven, at one point claiming more weekly wins in the 5 city metro and solidifying Wilkinson as one of the most formidable female presenters in the country.
Sometimes networks need to hold their nerve and allow shows time -that’s not easy to do when media are calling for changes or the axe.
The Project and Have You Been Paying Attention? are two examples of shows that struggled in early ratings but eventually found their audience. Seven’s House Rules is another that was facing the axe but the network stuck with it and made it work. Neighbours was famously axed by Seven before 10 rescued the show, and the rest is history.
One industry source told TV Tonight, “It’s easy to assume everyone knows what’s going on with a show’s decision making, but there are so many unique factors that are in play. The show’s hosts are just one factor. It is extremely brave to launch new faces without a new approach to content. Staying the course means that you are convinced your content and format is strong enough to weather a line-up change.”
TV historian Andrew Mercado agrees there are times a network has to back itself.
“Networks that try something different should not automatically hit the panic button when it doesn’t immediately click. Look at 10 when they tried breakfast TV and not once but twice threw out the original line up after just a few weeks,” he said.
“If you want to be brave, you have to follow through and give it a red hot go to succeed.”