The executive producer of Seven’s breakfast show has come out swinging over Nine’s treatment of stars including Karl Stefanovic and Deb Knight.
The executive producer of Seven’s breakfast show has come out swinging over Nine’s treatment of stars including Karl Stefanovic and Deb Knight.

‘Audience doesn’t like a company that treats people badly’

Sunrise boss Michael Pell has come out swinging at Channel 9 over its treatment of stars including Karl Stefanovic and Deb Knight.

In an exclusive interview with news.com.au, the executive producer of Channel 7's breakfast show expressed his shock at the Today show's ruthless line-up changes over the past few years.

"I'm quite surprised at how all of that's gone down with that show," Pell said. "Not to talk too much about them, but I've never seen that many people sacked that quickly for no apparent reason."

Sunrise’s Mark Beretta, Natalie Barr, Michael Pell, Sam Armytage and Kochie.
Sunrise’s Mark Beretta, Natalie Barr, Michael Pell, Sam Armytage and Kochie.

A new-look Today show fronted by Stefanovic and Allison Langdon launched this week after the Nine show plummeted to record low ratings last year with Knight and Georgie Gardner anchoring the program.

The revamped Today show has seen a bump in ratings, but still trails a long way behind Seven's Sunrise.

About 266,000 people in the five capital cities tuned into Sunrise yesterday compared to 220,000 who watched Today.

"I think the audience is punishing them for that still," Pell told news.com.au about Nine's revolving door of hosts. "The audience doesn't like a company that treats people badly.

"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."

Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon are the new hosts of Today.
Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon are the new hosts of Today.

It's that consistency that has helped Sunrise win the breakfast TV ratings battle for the past 15 years, Pell told news.com.au. But it's not the only factor.

"We're not the copiers," the executive producer said. "Other people have done the copying over the years.

"We actually do like to set the standard. We are the market leaders for a reason, and I mean that with humility and respect to the audience. We like to work from our own template and then often you'll find other people borrowing from that.

"I also think one of the strengths of Sunrise is that it's a family-friendly show.

"When you watch the show you feel warm and happy, and doesn't the world need a bit of that right now?"

Also speaking with news.com.au, Armytage inssited that comment about Sunrise being a family isn't a "bulls**t" marketing line.

"To demonstrate that, the other day I had a house right in the fire zone," she said.

"Literally sprinklers on the house, removing valuables, working out what I wanted to evacuate. It was at that level, which is scary.

"In the midst of this, Kochie sent me a text from holidays … saying, 'Lib (his wife) and I are thinking of you. If you need anything, let us know.'

"It's not a bulls**t line that we're a family. We are, we look out for each other."

Inside the Sunrise studio in Sydney’s Martin Place.
Inside the Sunrise studio in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Like many families, Armytage and Koch, who have been hosting Sunrise together since 2013, openly admit that they clash at times.

"We have the art that's been lost, particularly with social media, of agreeing to disagree," Koch told news.com.au about how they settle their arguments. "We never take it personally."

2020 is shaping up to be a fascinating year in Australian breakfast TV, an extremely lucrative market with more than $100 million in advertising revenue up for grabs annually.

Nine is hoping that Karl the comeback kid can claw eyeballs back to Today with his cheeky sense of humour, unpredictability and chemistry with co-host Allison Langdon.

Sunrise, however, is the steady ship. Viewers know what to expect each day from the family-friendly Kochie and Sam who are more than happy to admit they're a little bit "daggy".

"Our original mission statement years and years ago on Sunrise was: 'The daggy little TV program that informs, entertains and connects'," Koch told news.com.au. "That's still the philosophy we have at the moment. You do have to connect and you've got to have a bit of dagginess about it because that's mainstream Australia."

 


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