We’ve barely kicked-off 2019’s TV ratings season (in fact, they officially started last night), but it’s already abundantly clear one of the main battlegrounds is set to be the prime breakfast slot.
As has been reported ad nauseam, Nine’s “revamped” Today show – sans Mr Stefanovic – is already struggling against its arch-nemesis, Seven’s Sunrise.
According to last week’s five city OzTAM numbers, Sunrise pulled an average of 286,000 viewers to Today’s 198,000. A number that would no doubt concern Nine chiefs, desperate to avenge Seven’s decade-long dominance as the most-watched network.
Interestingly, over the weekend the now Nine-owned Age and Sydney Morning Herald ran a rather scathing synopsis of Today’s fortunes titled “Nine has tossed the baby out with the bath water and with it went Today’s ratings“.
Interesting in the fact that Nine – as B&T can steadfastly attest – is quick to pressure journalists when given unfavourable coverage, let alone those in its own stable.
The piece, penned by its entertainment reporter, Nathanael Cooper, described Stefanovic’s ugly exit and the appointment of Deb Knight as his replacement as Nine’s ” bosses threw out the baby, the bath water, the bath, the taps and the tiles in what is looking like a ham-fisted attempt to make it all stop.
“By rushing Stefanovic’s departure, Today now has a line-up that is starting the year on a back foot,” Cooper wrote.
“Breakfast television lives and dies by the chemistry of its presenters. Even if they don’t get along, it can be bizarrely enjoyable to watch. There needs to be a spark.
“Unfortunately, there has been precious little chemistry during the fledgling weeks of Today.”
B&T has contacted Mr Cooper for comment to garner if his weekend piece attracted the scrutiny of Nine chiefs. We hadn’t heard back at the time of publishing.
Meanwhile, News Corp is wasting no time using its editorial space to take potshots at Fairfax’s new owners.
An editorial on yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph claimed that Today was pinching Sunrise’s ideas.
The article, titled “Sunrise claims Today show is copying their on-air moves“, said that Today was running an on-air wedding competition titled “Marry In The Morning”. However, Sunrise ran an identical competition with the same name in 2018.
It was also claimed that Today had changed its openers to look exactly like Sunrise’s, had even changed its set – introducing a round couch – to resemble its rival’s and had “changed the locations and stories of their reporters in each city to match Sunrise’s.” A Nine spokesman denied the similarities and even claimed it was Sunrise who was the copycat.
As Nathanael Cooper concluded: “Nine management were between a rock and a hard place when it came to their Today problem; keep the status quo and lock themselves in for a Summer of Stefanovic or rush through some changes and destine themselves for the hard slog up from the very bottom.
“The current performance of the show suggests they made the wrong call.”