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.”

15 Responses

  1. The reality is it has only been a month. Nine were always going to alienate some viewers by ditching Stefanovic but it had to be done. The Stefanovic name had become toxic. Making so many changes within the presenting team wasn’t the smartest move. Gilbert and Wilkins should have remained. Steinfort was a terrible choice as newsreader. 1. He’s a very ordinary newsreader; and 2. He lacks personality. Jones is also a miss as he’s rarely there. Deb and Georgie cope the flack for the ratings, but, IMO, they’re the show’s strength. With a few tweaks and plenty of persistence, Today should make some ground up over the next 6 months.

      1. It is so bizarre. Perhaps the rumour of Shane Crawford joining is true and Jones was just a seat warmer while Shane was in the jungle. Should have stuck with Tim Gilbert who was experienced.

  2. Going with both Georgie and Deb was such a bad move. As a casual viewer I can barely tell the difference between them. They both have similar personalities, same hair, same age… They should’ve got Brenton Ragless.

  3. Sunrise 2007 @ 410k — &- 2019 @ 287k.
    Sure there are now many other choices to watch, but at breakfast time when everyone is dashing past, not really giving any program much attention, I would have thought ‘short story’ TV would held its own. It seems not to be the case.

  4. I think that’s the biggest problem with Aus TV, Networks don’t give shows a chance. I know producing a show is expensive and drama series are no exemption costing millions an episode to make, So when the show fails they often pull it.

    Changing rooms is perfect example of this. The battle between MKR and MAFS is a tough one so launching a new show amongst it was likely going to fail. Moving CR may help it but I think choosing a different time of the year or formatting it more like the original may help more.

    Today has been there for 30 years and will probably be there for another 30, However like with any show especially a show like Today the addition of one new person can be enough for some people to stop watching. Nine stuffed up majorly by letting Lisa walk away, they should have kept her and bumped Karl.

  5. I guess the only difference is you can make a profit with 254,000 viewers but under 200,000 as some people have said the show is not very profitable. Nine obviously decided in a shrinking market they can no longer afford to be second, that’s why they overhauled the Today lineup. They’ve been second in the breakfast market for a long time but only decided in December they needed radical hosting changes so that’s the only reasoning that can explain such drastic changes. So far they’ve only gone backwards. But it’s only early days….

  6. I’m hoping the Telegraph issuing an apology for its George Gardner focus group story the other day will be a bit of a turning point. News Corp has been bordering on bullying Georgie in recent times, not to mention their almost daily articles about the apparent multitude of other ways the Today show is falling apart at the seams.

  7. Thank you David, that’s made me feel a whole lot better. Today was going 20 years before Sunrise was even thought of. I would really like to see Today back beating Sunrise again. I remember the media were particularly vicious towards Jessica Rowe when she joined Today. When she spoke about her post natal depression one paper said that they were interviewing each other. It was very brave of her to talk about that & they belittle her like that. Very cruel.

Leave a Reply