TODAY records another win over SUNRISE

After 6 months of negative headlines it looks like the TODAY show is starting to turn the ship around with two very important victories over arch rival SUNRISE.

Australia’s two biggest cities are starting to throw their support behind Nine’s breakfast show which is going to cause grief over at Channel 7’s Martin Place studios, home of Sunrise. Just this week TODAY has claimed victory in Melbourne beating its rival by the slimmest of margins.

In the end TODAY averaged 57,460 to Sunrise’s 56,643. While the difference is small the impact is huge. Channel 7 prides itself on being #1 and losing a key city like Melbourne will not go down well with network bosses.

So far this year Sunrise has had a clear run thanks in large to the significant changes made by Channel 9 at the beginning of the year. The new team of Georgie Gardner, Deb Knight and Tom Steinfort has faced constant analysis and opinions (including by this website) but Nine always said they were going to stay the course and the strategy seems to be paying off.

A week earlier Nine’s News boss Darren Wick sent out a tweet congratulating the team for winning in Sydney;

Executive Producer  Michael Pell  in front of the  Sunrise  team  PHOTO: SMH

Executive Producer Michael Pell in front of the Sunrise team

PHOTO: SMH

Sydney and Melbourne are Australia’s two biggest cities in terms of television viewers and advertising revenue. The significance of winning these markets cannot be understated. Wins on the east coast also help build a perception of faith as it is virtually impossible for anyone other than Channel 7 to win the west. Indeed, over many years Seven News has been able to hang on to the mantle of being “Australia’s #1” thanks to the large margins in Perth despite losing Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Executive producer of the TODAY show Steve Burling

PHOTO: Mediaweek

Under the leadership of Executive Producer Steve Burling TODAY has remained calm despite the headlines (again, this website included) and made content changes as part of an evolution process. What makes this turnaround all the more remarkable is the golden halo Sunrise has enjoyed while TODAY seemed to implode. The fact Seven haven’t been able to hang onto the audience in these two key markets is very interesting.

When Wick posted his tweet after winning Sydney it didn’t take long for Sunrise EP Michael Pell to remind his followers of Sunrise’s dominance;

But in recent years Seven have made the fatal mistake of building their entire brand on being number 1. It’s the same mistake Nine had made all those years ago during the “Still the one” campaigns. That’s fine while you’re still #1 but what happens when you’re no longer in front? What does your brand stand for then?

Seven might soon be asking themselves that question. Not only is Nine kicking goals with its entertainment schedule in prime time but if TODAY makes a significant comeback it will completely change the narrative, leaving Seven scrambling.

Now, some might point out Sunrise is still so dominant in overall figures so who cares about a win here in Melbourne or there in Sydney? Surely it’s the big number overall that counts?

Well, never underestimate the trend.

During my time at Nine News from December 2008-2013 I was able to witness the highs and lows or being the challenger brand. In 2010 Nine News Sydney started getting a win here and there. Usually after a win we would take a massive hit and then a week or two later we would get another win. What that showed was viewers who were in the habit of watching 7 News were starting to come over. Their habit was still to switch on Seven but we kept giving them reasons to come over to Nine.

Eventually we ended up winning a week here and there until in 2011 we won the year. Nine News in Sydney hasn’t lost a year since.

The point here is that small wins can show how things are changing. Don’t expect the TODAY show to be #1 in Melbourne or Sydney this year, but little wins like this are key. They also show viewers are reconnecting with Nine’s breakfast show.

While still being a challenger brand it also allows Burling to experiment with the format and content of the show, but Michael Pell needs to be more careful not to alienate the Sunrise fan base. it’s a tricky situation.

So, with a weekly win in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney this year it will be fascinating to see what happens next. One thing’s for sure, in 2020 it’s going to be game on.