Ally, Karl, and Brisbane: Why the Today show is about to topple ‘unbeatable’ Sunrise

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It took three tumultuous years, a dozen line-up changes and one sensational backflip – but the Today show is once again the darling of breakfast TV.

The pairing of Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon – the show’s third partnership in as many years – has started September in an unfamiliar position: on top.

Through the first eight days of September, Today has had more east coast viewers than Sunrise (they never have and never will win in Perth) and are killing it in Brisbane.

It took three tumultuous years, a dozen lineup changes and one sensational back flip - but the Today show is once again the darling of breakfast TV

So what went wrong?

It’s called chemistry! It took three tumultuous years, a dozen line-up changes and one sensational backflip – but the Today show is once again the darling of breakfast TV

On Monday, Today delivered its closest five-city metro result compared to Sunrise since Lisa Wilkinson (remember her?) was Karl’s co-host in 2017 – trailing in overall viewership by just 8,000.

Flashback to the same Monday in May, and that gap was a whopping 94,000 people.

So what sparked Today’s spectacular turnaround? Karl? Ally?

Why don’t we ask Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell, who infamously threw fuel on the breakfast TV fire at the start of the year.

The pairing of Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon - the show's third partnership in as many years - has started September in an unfamiliar position: on top (on the east coast at least)

The pairing of Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon – the show’s third partnership in as many years – has started September in an unfamiliar position: on top (on the east coast at least)

What year is it? On Monday, Today delivered its closest five-city metro result compared to Sunrise since Lisa Wilkinson (right) was Karl's co-host in 2017 - trailing by just 8,000 viewers

What year is it? On Monday, Today delivered its closest five-city metro result compared to Sunrise since Lisa Wilkinson (right) was Karl’s co-host in 2017 – trailing by just 8,000 viewers

‘When you watch Sunrise you feel warm and happy, and doesn’t the world need a bit of that right now?’ he told News.com.au in January.

‘On our side of the fence, there’s been very little change in what we’ve done for many years and I think people appreciate that.’   

And yet Sunrise has failed to heed its own advice this year, handing David Koch and Sam Armytage four-day work weeks and frequent one-off absences. 

When the highly-paid duo are together, they occasionally appear frosty and disconnected. Debates turn into arguments on a weekly basis.

So what sparked Today's turnaround? Why don't we just ask Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell (centre) who threw fuel on the fire in January when he said: 'When you watch Sunrise you feel warm and happy, and doesn't the world need a bit of that right now?'

So what sparked Today’s turnaround? Why don’t we just ask Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell (centre) who threw fuel on the fire in January when he said: ‘When you watch Sunrise you feel warm and happy, and doesn’t the world need a bit of that right now?’

'On our side of the fence, there's been very little change in what we've done for many years and I think people appreciate that,' Pell added. And yet Sunrise has failed to heed its own advice this year, handing Kochie and Sam four-day work weeks and frequent one-off absences

‘On our side of the fence, there’s been very little change in what we’ve done for many years and I think people appreciate that,’ Pell added. And yet Sunrise has failed to heed its own advice this year, handing Kochie and Sam four-day work weeks and frequent one-off absences

For much of 2020, Sunrise has taken a ‘softer’ approach to news compared to its rivals, and only recently has it adopted a more aggressive stance on its COVID-19 coverage.

‘I feel like I never see Kochie and Sam together anymore, even though they do three days together. Karl and Ally, on the other hand, are always there delivering the news and fun,’ industry expert Rob McKnight of the Ben, Rob & Robbo show told Daily Mail Australia. 

With the pressure on and their once insurmountable lead shrinking to almost nothing, Sam and Kochie finally stepped up this week and slammed some of the excesses of Dan Andrews’ Stage Four lockdown. 

The news with a twist! 'I feel like I never see Kochie and Sam together anymore, even though they do three days together. Karl and Ally, on the other hand, are always there delivering the news and fun,' industry expert Rob McKnight told Daily Mail Australia

The news with a twist! ‘I feel like I never see Kochie and Sam together anymore, even though they do three days together. Karl and Ally, on the other hand, are always there delivering the news and fun,’ industry expert Rob McKnight told Daily Mail Australia

The history of the ‘breakfast TV wars’  

The golden girl: Nine's Today show has been playing catch-up in the 'breakfast TV wars' ever since Karl Stefanovic's long-term co-host Lisa Wilkinson left over a pay dispute in 2017, never to be heard from again

The golden girl: Nine’s Today show has been playing catch-up in the ‘breakfast TV wars’ ever since Karl Stefanovic’s long-term co-host Lisa Wilkinson left over a pay dispute in 2017, never to be heard from again

A touch of frost: She was replaced by Georgie Gardner, who had clashed with Karl frequently in the past. The lifeless pair delivered the program's worst ratings year in a decade

A touch of frost: She was replaced by Georgie Gardner, who had clashed with Karl frequently in the past. The lifeless pair delivered the program’s worst ratings year in a decade

Nine’s breakfast show has been playing catch-up in the ‘breakfast TV wars’ ever since Karl Stefanovic’s long-term co-host Lisa Wilkinson left over a pay dispute in 2017, never to be heard from again.

She was replaced by Georgie Gardner, who had clashed with Karl frequently in the past. The lifeless pair delivered the program’s worst ratings year in a decade. 

The network blamed the failure on Karl’s highly publicised marriage breakdown and subsequent romance with younger fashion model Jasmine Yarbrough. 

By the end of 2018, Channel Nine’s ‘two-million dollar man’ was out.

Excuses: The network blamed the failure on Karl's highly publicised marriage breakdown and subsequent romance with younger fashion model Jasmine Yarbrough (pictured on their wedding day). By the end of 2018, Channel Nine's 'two-million dollar man' was out

Excuses: The network blamed the failure on Karl’s highly publicised marriage breakdown and subsequent romance with younger fashion model Jasmine Yarbrough (pictured on their wedding day). By the end of 2018, Channel Nine’s ‘two-million dollar man’ was out 

In 2019, veteran anchor Deborah Knight was brought in to form the first ever all-female breakfast duo in Australian history. The ratings sunk even further.

Today had gone from being neck-and-neck to dead in the water in the space of three years.

Then, in a sensational backflip, Nine re-hired Karl at the start of the year, pairing him with popular and charismatic news reporter Allison Langdon. 

Their on-screen chemistry is palpable – and the numbers are starting to reflect it.

‘Karl and Ally have proven to have great chemistry and the show has been quietly evolving in the background to the point where it’s pretty compelling TV in the morning,’ said McKnight

Sunk cost fallacy: In 2019, veteran anchor Deborah Knight (left) was brought in to form the first ever all-female breakfast duo in Australian history. The ratings sunk even further. Today had gone from being neck-and-neck to dead in the water in the space of three years

Sunk cost fallacy: In 2019, veteran anchor Deborah Knight (left) was brought in to form the first ever all-female breakfast duo in Australian history. The ratings sunk even further. Today had gone from being neck-and-neck to dead in the water in the space of three years

New recruit: In a sensational backflip to begin 2020, Nine re-hired Karl and paired him with popular and charismatic news reporter Allison Langdon. The pair's on-screen chemistry is palpable - and the numbers are starting to reflect it

New recruit: In a sensational backflip to begin 2020, Nine re-hired Karl and paired him with popular and charismatic news reporter Allison Langdon. The pair’s on-screen chemistry is palpable – and the numbers are starting to reflect it

High praise: 'Karl and Ally have proven to have great chemistry and the show has been quietly evolving in the background to the point where it's pretty compelling TV in the morning,' said industry expert Rob McKnight

High praise: ‘Karl and Ally have proven to have great chemistry and the show has been quietly evolving in the background to the point where it’s pretty compelling TV in the morning,’ said industry expert Rob McKnight

A Numbers Game 

Through the first six days of May, Today’s average daily viewership was 211,000 – a whopping 86,000 viewers behind Sunrise (297,000). 

Cut to September, and Today’s average daily viewership has grown by 20,000 (231,000), while Sunrise has shed 41,000 viewers (256,000). 

On Monday, the gap between the two shows shrunk to just 8,000 – Sunrise retaining a slight lead with 250,000 viewers to Today’s 242,000.

Today is now winning in Australia’s three major cities, starting September with an average of 196,000 daily viewers across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, compared to 179,000 for Sunrise.

‘Just a couple of months ago we thought they would end up behind ABC News Breakfast for the year, but the last month has seen a dramatic turnaround,’ said McKnight.

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 The West Coast problem 

West coast problem: the only reason Today hasn't amassed an insurmountable lead in 2020 has nothing to do with Karl or Ally. This is a west coast problem

West coast problem: the only reason Today hasn’t amassed an insurmountable lead in 2020 has nothing to do with Karl or Ally. This is a west coast problem

In fact, the only reason Today hasn’t amassed an insurmountable lead in 2020 has nothing to do with Karl or Ally. This is a west coast problem. 

For a variety of reasons, Nine news programming has never been popular in Perth (or Adelaide for that matter).

Ratings for the nightly news demonstrate that Ally and Karl are doing a much better job of bridging the insurmountable gap than their counterparts at 4pm.

Doesn't travel well? For a variety of reasons, Nine news programming has never been popular in Perth (or Adelaide for that matter)

Doesn’t travel well? For a variety of reasons, Nine news programming has never been popular in Perth (or Adelaide for that matter)

Take Monday for example: Seven News won in overall viewership (1.1 million total viewers to 1 million for Nine) but lost on the east coast – trailing in Sydney by 14,000 viewers, in Melbourne by 60,000 and Brisbane by 20,000.

Seven News smashed Nine by 69,000 viewers in Adelaide, and in Perth by 106,000.

The same is true for breakfast, with Sunrise beating Today by a margin of 30,000 viewers in Perth on Monday. 

The numbers prove that for the first time ever Today has found a winning formula – the only obstacle is the west coast.

‘There’s no doubt the Today show is back in the game, and that will have Channel Seven very worried, added McKnight.

Will they beat the odds? The only obstacle in Today's way is the west coast audience, which has an entrenched preference for Seven's news offering

Will they beat the odds? The only obstacle in Today’s way is the west coast audience, which has an entrenched preference for Seven’s news offering

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