Over the last 6 weeks, there’s been some interesting happenings at breakfast.

For the last 7 years Sunrise has ruled the weekly breakfast roost. The only time The Today Show has dislodged them for an entire week was during the Winter Olympics and that’s somewhat normal, so it’s really seen as an anomaly – but before that, it was SEVEN YEARS ago. To put it in context, I have two children under seven and this means neither of them know a world where Mel & Kochie didn’t own breakfast. Since 2-0-0-4.

Since mid-2007 it’s been Mel & Kochie vs Karl & Lisa, with Today struggling to keep up by comparison. That was until Week 24 of the 2011 ratings season when Today struck back and won the week on individual day wins and weekly average.

Statistics and ratings numbers are a funny thing. Network PR’s make a living from making them say whatever they want. “Show A wins all key demos.” “Show B wins the east coast.” “Show C wins the Xpm timeslot.” The grand irony is that they are right in each statement… but it’s actually Show D that out-rated the other three, it’s all in the spin.

The raw data is thus:

(Please note the highlights on the days indicate the winning show for that day on total people across the 5 capital city metro markets. All numbers are in thousands.)

So the day to day battle has looked like this over the past 6 weeks:

Daily ratings - Sunrise vs Today - Week 20 to Week 25 inclusive

Before this it’s been here and there day wins – nothing special. Even the week that Karl Stefanovic won a gold Logie Today didn’t win the week. It’s been a long journey for the blue dots. But they’ve been eating away at the market & somewhere around week 22 it really started to happen.

Like I said, raw numbers can mean anything – and you can make your own judgements from it. Even in week 25 where it was neck and neck, Channel 7 claimed the win for Sunrise on average viewers across the week (see graph below) and Channel 9 claimed the win for Today as they won 3 days of the 5 (see the highlighted raw data in the table above). It’s crazy.

Weekly averages - Sunrise vs Today - Week 20 to Week 25 inclusive

It’s important to note that the numbers that breakfast television are getting aren’t huge. These shows normally rate somewhere around 28-ish for the day as far as top shows go, yet they are marquee shows for the network. The salaries of the hosts are, reportedly/allegedly, huge. Like 8-10 times what a normal human earns. It’s also decidedly disproportionate to what happens in the evening for ratings vs return, but the thought is that you’ll tune in at the start of the day and you’ll hang around/not change the channel by the time the evening comes.

2011 is a critical year for both networks.

Channel 7 have been long experiencing the ‘halo effect’ of good ratings across a number of shows, spinning out from some massive success with some high-quality programming. But this decline at breakfast will have the bosses watching. With Adam Boland handing the reins over to the anointed Michael Pell into the start of this year, there was an expectation that he’d not only continue the amazing success but build it to bigger things. Reportedly Pell has some ideas to shake up what some consider to be a tired format, but he’s not yet received approval to implement them. Things need changing, and soon, so that this downward trend for Sunrise does not continue.

Today have long been the underdog and happy to work out of that position and it’s starting to pay off. Channel 9 are letting their team have fun, be a little cheeky, throw some caution to the wind and play out some risky situations. However they now are faced with rumours of Karl wanting to stretch beyond brekky tele and do “other things” and his alleged replacement in Ben Fordham doesn’t yet have the trust of the market. How long can they keep this year’s golden child in place while they deliver his anointed into the psyche of the market?

Both Sunrise and Today have strong website presences supporting the shows and both have active twitter presences – @SunriseOn7 and @TheTodayShow. They regularly and successfully engage with their audiences and both work hard to connect beyond the show – as do all the hosts through their personal twitter accounts.

Over and above all this Boland is seeking to be excused from his lucrative 2-day-a-week contract with Channel 7 to (again, allegedly) move to Channel 10 with new boss James Warburton where he’d be given free reign to redevelop their breakfast/morning line up – with surely the same success he’s had at the home of the red slash.

The rest of 2011 and 2012 will indeed be interesting times for Australian breakfast television and it’s viewers.


Sunrise – Weekdays 6am to 9am, Ch7.
The Today Show – Weekdays 5:30am to 9am, Ch9.