Today sinks to ‘lowest ever’ ratings
YESTERDAY, a revamped breakfast show, fresh back on screens for a new season with two engaging female leads, captured the eyeballs of 261,000 Australians.
That show wasn't Channel 9's Today.
Get Krack!n, the ABC's mock breakfast show starring comedians Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney - which was actually broadcast at 9.30pm - was watched by almost 100,000 more people than Today.
Admittedly, comparing a half-hour prime time comedy to three hours of live TV might not be the fairest assessment.
But the news doesn't get any brighter for Today when you compare the show to its peers. On Wednesday, just 177,000 people woke up with Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight, compared to 300,000 who chose Channel 7's Sunrise.
In Sydney, almost 35,000 more people opted for David "Kochie" Koch and Samantha Armytage on Sunrise over Today; in Adelaide three times as many viewers separated the shows.
Industry insiders have told news.com.au the ratings disaster is a "shocking new low".
Steve Molk from the TV Blackbox website added: "Yesterday's numbers for Today represent a record low for the breakfast show that only two years ago was threatening to overtake Sunrise. It's also a swift and sound rejection of the Today's new look, feel and line-up."
Channel 9 hasn't disputed the figures but they have said Today has had lower ratings on at least 30 other occasions.
But most of these were in non-ratings period over the notoriously quiet Christmas, New Year and Easter stretches, and, even then, Today hasn't seen lower figures than Wednesday's since Boxing Day 2007.
The network said it was "confident that the audience will be turning to us in the weeks and months ahead".
According to overnight figures of the five major cities from ratings agency OzTam, Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom, an ABC Kids cartoon series aimed at preschoolers featuring a fairy princess and an elf, which is the highest-rated non free to air program, came within just 20,000 viewers of beating Today.
In mid-January, the Today show dipped below what was considered the "all important" 200,000 viewer mark. And it's just kept on sinking since.
Industry commentator David Knox, editor of blog TV Tonight, told news.com.au Channel 9's troubled show had "nowhere to hide" and it would be "easier to turn around the QEII than an underperforming show".
But he added that the basics of the show were good and Nine should "hold its nerve".
Nevertheless, the poor viewing figures will heap pressure on Today's new executive producer Steve Burling and on-air lead presenters Gardner and Knight.
The ratings slump comes after an awkward debut for the new-look Today after a tumultuous period that began when Lisa Wilkinson jumped ship to Channel 10's The Project and ended when long-time host Karl Stefanovic walked out the doors late last year.
Some have questioned the chemistry among the new presenting crew. The exact role veteran entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins is playing in the show still seems to be up in the air.
The presenters even went as fair as to read out mean tweets about the show live on air including one particularly unnecessary one that said the pair looked like "a pair of scruffy, unkempt blondes (that have) just climbed out of bed and hadn't even brushed their hair.'"
Channel 9 has also had to counter a whispering campaign from unnamed "industry insiders" keen to talk down the show.
An anonymous source told the publication that "the damage Karl left behind is irreparable" and "I don't think anything or anyone can save Today".
Nine dismissed the reports as "absolute garbage".
However, new entertainment reporter Brooke Boney scored a goal when her on air advocacy for changing the date of Australia Day became one of the few times this year that Today has barged its way into the headlines for reasons other than the show's internal machinations and viewership.
Mr Knox told news.com.au Channel 9 was still in an unenviable position saddled with a show that was declining during the last year Stefanovic was at the helm and had to change to have any chance of survival.
"No question there is nowhere to hide when you are drawing 177,000 while the opposition pulls 300,000, so not a great day at the office," he said.
"Breakfast TV is notoriously habitual and it would be easier to turn around the QEII than an underperforming show. Viewers are rusted-on and do not like change. That said, Nine had to respond to a year of poor figures and bad headlines."
Mr Knox cautioned that the show was barely four weeks into its run and it was too early to know if the ratings were a brief slump or a long-term trend.
Changes could be made but he didn't go as far as to suggest Stefanovic should make a return to the Today desk.
"The rapport between Georgie and Deb is good and Tom's strength lays in live news reportage.
"Some viewers have questioned whether Richard Wilkins actually left the show, why Tony Jones is not sitting alongside the team, and why Steve Jacobs isn't on the road more for weather. There is still room to tweak but Nine has to hold its nerve."
Channel 9 said the lowest figures for Today were way back in December 2005 when the show peaked at just 116,000 eyeballs.
It went on to state that on at least 31 occasions, the show has rated lower than it did on Wednesday.
However 24 of those days were in non-ratings period and the show hasn't seen figures this dire since December 2007.
Burling, the Director of Morning Television at Channel 9, told news.com.au: "Today's ratings have been between 200,000 - 230,000 for the last two weeks, which is in line with the end of 2018.
"It's very early days and rating figures will continue to fluctuate, but I'm absolutely thrilled with the dynamic between Georgie, Deb, Tom and the entire on-air team. And, I'm confident that the audience will be turning to us in the weeks and months ahead."
Just a week after the new Today show debuted, and with regular viewers grumbling, Gardner urged people to give the show time.
"Yes, it is a fresh team, it is a new line-up and change can be hard for some people to get their head around, but for those of you in support, thank you very much, we greatly appreciate it".
The team will be hoping those supporters don't trickle away even further than they already have.