OPINION | Karl, Ali and a complete format change - TODAY 2020

Allison Langdon and Karl Stefanovic are set to host the TODAY show in 2020

PHOTO: Instagram

With Channel 9 all but set to lock in KARL STEFANOVIC and ALLISON LANGDON to host an all-new TODAY show in 2020, I thought I would put my money where my mouth is and offer my suggestions on how to evolve the breakfast TV format.

It’s no secret I have been critical of the direction of the TODAY show in 2019. During many interviews on radio, print and online I have lamented the sacking of Karl Stefanovic and direction of the show.

That criticism has led to many people asking me what I would do.

During my 25 years in the television industry I have worked with some of the biggest names in morning TV. From Adam Boland to Darren Wick, Michael Pell and Tom Malone, each has brought a unique perspective to the format and they all have opinions I value greatly. I also learnt a lot during my time as Executive Producer of Studio 10 and experienced first hand what connects with the audience.

It’s important to note none of the people listed in this proposal have been approached or shown any interest in moving across to the TODAY show, this is a high concept pitch only.

So, for better or worse, here are my thoughts…

KARL, ALI AND A NEW FORMAT

This new double header will lead a new charge for the show, but it won’t be enough unless the format evolves. Producers have a chance to go in a different direction and engage viewers who have given up on the format. As audiences diminish a rethink is needed to draw those once loyal consumers back to the television and away from their smartphones and computers.

If you look at all the evidence in the US, viewers are drawn to opinion television. They want more than just the facts; they want to know how to feel about those facts. They might not always agree with what they hear, but presenters offering their opinions on the topics of the day helps them to inform their own views.

While Australian shows dabble in opinions on breakfast television, the concept has not been fully embraced.

TODAY will continue to offer the news of the day but will also talk about those topics with a team of journalists who will get Australia talking.

This proposal would see see the show be broken up into two; TODAY EARLY (5am-6.30am) and TODAY (6.30am-9am).  The key focus will be on the 6.30am – 9am timeslot as peak viewing falls within this section (coding also means 7am – 9am is the timeslot the show is judged on in daily ratings reports -  this is why all energy needs to focus on this timeslot rather than earlier parts of the day).

With a greater focus put on TODAY’s peak audience of 7am-9am hosts and key crew will be able to pour all their energies into making sure compelling content is being delivered to the biggest audience of the day, while still servicing early news watchers.

The inclusion of hot topics being debated by a regular team will offer a real point of difference in the morning. The mixture of topics and news will play to the strengths of the team and utilise Nine’s news-gathering abilities.

This model would also allow the 7am segment to be tailored for the Perth market to overcome time delays by going live into that market for that segment only. The same concept would apply to Queensland for the 8am segment during the Summer months.

The proposed structure outlined below will give TODAY a competitive advantage.

TODAY EARLY - 5am – 6.30am

Offering viewers easily digestible news, this show will focus on the important stories for businesspeople starting their day early. News, Sport, Weather, Finance and entertainment will form the backbone of this section with live crosses to overseas reporters keeping viewers up to date with overnight developments.

HOSTS: Ricardo Gonçalves (News & Finance), Georgie Tunny (News & Sport) & Steve Jacobs (Entertainment & Weather)

Bringing viewers up-to-date with the news headlines every 15 minutes, this new morning offering will be fast-paced as early morning commuters dip in-and-out as they leave for work.

Ricardo Gonçalves

Georgie Tunny

Steve Jacobs

Ricardo Gonçalves is a young, energetic newsreader currently seen on SBS World News. He was also the host for Australia on Eurovision as he delivered our votes in front of a television audience of 186 million. Bringing diversity, warmth and an expert knowledge of finance, Ricardo will engage audiences in the morning.

Georgie Tunny has a love of sport and an easy going attitude that viewers of ABC News Breakfast find endearing. Smart, funny and quick-witted, her demeanour will liven things up in a commercial environment.

Ricardo and Georgie will drive TODAY EARLY with breakout segments on their specialist subjects (i.e. Finance and Sport).

Steve Jacobs will use his weather background and presenting skills to deliver in-studio updates on the weather outlook and quick hits of entertainment.

For budgetary consideration, this could be done out of the automated studio and should have a similar look and feel to the main TODAY show but have its own unique identity.

These hosts will also be used on the main TODAY show as part of the larger family (see below).

TODAY – 6.30am – 9am

Welcome to a brand new TODAY show - It’s breakfast TV, but not as you know it. This TODAY show will deliver news… and views! These journos know the stories, they deliver the stories but they will also share their opinions on those stories.

The show will have two main hosts but also a team around them offering their views on hot topics. In this format there is no dedicated sport presenter or weather presenter. Sport will be covered in general news when warranted and weather will be a quick hit without a forced cross or presentation. A roving reporter will provide a glimpse of Australia where possible, without having to do mediocre crosses just for the sake of filling the weather spot.

HOSTS: Karl Stefanovic & Allison Langdon

Karl’s return to the TODAY show will create publicity you just can’t buy. They key will be to maximise that buzz by having a brand new offering for viewers that will pull them away from Sunrise.

Keeping the current format and just putting Karl in the chair will ultimately fail. Initially it will draw viewers interested to see him back, but without significant change to the format viewers will not stick around.

Allison Langdon has proven herself as a reporter for 60 Minutes and host of Weekend Today. As a mum Ali can identify with the issues facing parents but she also has a worldliness that will stop that from being her only focus. She’s smart, funny and can certainly give Karl a run for his money!

The team around them will be very important. While the show will need to lean slightly to the right to reflect Australia, it will also be important to have a voice that champions the left. If the overall hosting team leans too much to the left the show will fail to attract large audiences (The Project is a perfect example of this).

Each person listed below is a starting point with the idea of casting for each particular role. Casting and diversity of opinion is the key to making sure the overall dynamic will work and resonate with viewers.

 PANEL MEMBERS: Chris Smith, Jo Casamento, & David Campbell

These three panellists combined with Karl and Ali offer a wide variety of opinions that will create compelling conversations. They also have a news sense that will enable them to ask interviewees additional questions.

Chris Smith knows how to relate to an audience. His right wing views hit home with viewers in the suburbs and he is smart enough to make conversations and topics connect with the audience.

Jo Casamento is a working mum who is never afraid to open up about her struggles. She connects to plenty of mothers out there, even if she is living a more glamourous lifestyle.

David Campbell has proven himself to be great talent on TODAY EXTRA and WEEKEND TODAY. He will certainty challenge the views of other people… plus he’ll also provide plenty of laughs along the way (and hey, the guy can sing!).

ADDITIONAL TEAM MEMBERS: Richard Wilkins (Entertainment), David Robinson (Roving Reporter), Ricardo Gonçalves (News), Steve Jacobs (Social trends) and Georgie Tunny (Sport as needed and b/u newsreader)

There’s not many people who have a better handle on entertainment than Richard Wilkins. Dickie has contacts and can help get exclusives. His reinstatement as the entertainment reporter on the show will help deliver must see stories.

David Robinson has shown what a versatile performer he is during his Studio 10 days. From laugh-out-loud comedy skits to cyclone coverage, Robbo appeals to middle-aged women. They see him as a son and care very deeply for him. The days of the weather reporter are gone, but it’s important to have someone who can take the viewer outside the studio for a look at the real Australia. By making the role a roving reporter the pressure of delivering something compelling every day in a weather spot is taken away. We will send the roving reporter out when there is something worth covering.

Ricardo Gonçalves will read news updates from 7am as part of his additional hosting duties.

Steve Jacobs will present a social media segment each morning looking at the trends and comments shaping the conversations online (and any funny clips that can be used throughout the morning - he will be a constant go-to person)

There will not be a dedicated sports segment as such, but Georgie Tunny will be on hand to provide expert commentary when the need arises. She will also read news when Ricardo is away.

FORMAT

 6.30am – Segment 1

 - BIG HELLO then Karl and Ali presenting a hit of news and weather.

 - LIVE X to developing story

 - LIVE X to feature story pre-planned night before

 6.42am - COMMERCIAL BREAK 1

 6.45am – Segment 2

 - 3 x Hot Topics (or Today’s Take/Hot Takes) with team

 6.55am - COMMERCIAL BREAK 2

 7.00am – Segment 3

 - OPENER

 - BIG HELLO

 - Karl & Ali present the first 4 big news stories, including interviews (panel will also be able to ask questions, but interviews will be driven by Karl and Ali)

 - News update with Ricardo

 - Feature interviews/segment and news making story crosses (Karl and Ali split up and drive interviews with other members of the panel)

 - Social Media trends/feedback with Stevie

 7.25am – COMMERCIAL BREAK 3

 7.28am – Segment 4

 - Hot Topics (as these topics will cover news stories and interesting talking points, there will not be a need for the current 7.30am update)

 7.44am – COMMERCIAL BREAK 4

 7.47am – Segment 5

 - Entertainment Report with Richard Wilkins (the format for this segment will change from single presented segment to panel discussion segment where the panel ask Dickie questions to lead him into multiple topics covering breaking news in the world of entertainment. Currently most stories in Entertainment are 24 hours old, this segment will have the very latest but still have room for cross promotes and live crosses)

 7.57am – COMMERCIAL BREAK 5

8.00am – Segment 6

 - News update with Ricardo

 - Karl and Ali drive feature interviews and stories with input from panel

 8.18am – COMMERCIAL BREAK 6

8.22am – Segment 7

 - Karl and Ali drive feature interview

8.26am – COMMERCIAL BREAK 7

8.30am – Segment 8

 - News update with Ricardo

 - 3 x Hot topics

8.44am – COMMERCIAL BREAK 8

8.47am – Segment 9

 - Feature interview with Karl, Ali & Panel

8.51 – COMMERCIAL BREAK 9

8.54 – Segment 10

 - Feedback and goodbyes with entire team

8.57am – COMMERCIAL BREAK 10

PERTH (and BRISBANE)

Currently TODAY Perth is an entirely different show hosted by a local presenter that does not truly reflect the national show. I would suggest having the national team present the Perth inserts for the 7am hour. On some days only segment 3 will need to be redone but on other days the decision might be made to redo the hot topics segment or even entertainment.

This will achieve a point of difference to Sunrise which also currently uses a local presenter for local inserts.

During Daylight Saving in the summer months the same concept would apply to Brisbane (except due to time differences the 8am segment would be tailored to that market.

This option will allow replays of key national interviews but also allow TODAY to focus on local issues in those two markets. Live crosses to the local roving reporter in Perth will continue but interviews will be done by Karl and Ali and the panel instead of the local presenter. This will give viewers in Perth a feeling of importance when seeing the presenters from the East covering local issues.

This will be a very promotable proposition in Perth and is the best way of trying to achieve an increase in audience share. 

By having the TODAY team start at the later time of 6.30am it will allow the cast and crew to achieve this goal (and studio resources can be cut in Perth). TODAY EXTRA will continue from the automated studio. 

SUMMER – Daylight Saving Time

9.00am – Segment 6 (8am segment) redone for Brisbane*

10.00am – Segment 3 (7am segment) redone for Perth*

*Depending on breaking news and entertainment stories there will be the option to redo the entire hour

WINTER

9.00am – Segment 3 (7am segment) redone for Perth

*Depending on breaking news and entertainment stories there will be the option to redo the entire hour


This is an ambitious plan and is very different to the show currently on air, but now is the time to strike with something bold in order to gain a competitive edge. As the current number 1 Sunrise can only tinker around the edges but as the challenger TODAY has nothing to lose by innovating the breakfast TV space.

I would love to hear your feedback in the comments section!