Last week, Today slumped to a devastating new low despite a massive publicity effort for months to promote prodigal son Karl Stefanovic and his co-host Allison Langdon.
Just 173,000 viewers tuned in on Tuesday across the five major capital cities, representing a gap of almost 100,000 eyeballs with Channel 7’s Sunrise on 272,000. It was beaten by ABC News Breakfast on 178,000.
On Thursday, the ratings slid further – Today recorded 171,000 metro viewers, which was the worst result since Stefanovic’s return.
Industry pundits say consistently falling below the crucial 200,000 audience figure should worry executives at Channel 9.
But Darren Wick, head of news and current affairs, insists he’s not worried about the show’s future and doesn’t care about the ratings in general.
“Karl and Ally are absolutely the right team,” Wick told The Australian’s Media Diary today. “The chemistry is right and they’re in a good headspace.”
Stefanovic was dumped at the end of 2018 after an extended run of bad press over the breakdown of his marriage, new relationship and glitzy wedding, and the leaking of his back seat Uber slagging-off of then-colleague Georgie Gardner.
But just 12 months later, he was brought back from the wilderness in a bid to reverse the dwindling fortunes of Today.
Wick, who helped orchestrate that return, is convinced that Stefanovic and Langdon can eventually lead the flailing show to ratings glory against powerhouse Sunrise.
“Hand on heart, I’m not bothered by the ratings,” he told The Australian.
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“What we’re doing now is trying to get Australians to watch it again. The results will come. But the show is still finding its rhythm; we’re not even two months in.
“And it would be naive for us not to imagine it will be a tough journey to win viewers back.”
Television commentators aren’t quite as optimistic and believe it would take something truly catastrophic at Channel 7 for Today to have a chance of topping the ratings.
“The next time they make a major change is when Armytage or Kochie don’t renew their contract or leave Sunrise,” media analyst Steve Allen told news.com.au.
Allen isn’t surprised that Today’s start to 2020 has been a struggle and expects sceptical former viewers are adopting a wait-and-see approach.
“The majority of the breakfast audience is female, and they were the ones that reacted greatly against Stefanovic’s various missteps in 2018,” Allen said.
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“Our knowledge of that audience is that they don’t forgive easily. We were never convinced his return after a year and a bit of PR boosting would rebuild the bridge.
“I think the vast majority of people are watching Today on a wait-and-see basis.”
Mr Allen said it’s likely Channel 9 executives would have expected Today to fare better than it has.
But Wick is holding steady, telling The Australian that he’s backing Stefanovic and Langdon for the long haul.