The boss of Channel Nine’s Today show has come out swinging against a ‘fabricated’ newspaper article claiming the ‘beleaguered’ breakfast program is in crisis due to ‘diving’ ratings and viewers supposedly not warming to new co-host Sarah Abo.
The Daily Telegraph published a story on Friday quoting an unnamed TV executive as saying: ‘Nine bosses are seriously worried and since MAFS ended. There have been daily meetings trying to figure out what to do with Today… The Karl/Sarah combination clearly isn’t connecting with viewers.’
But in an extraordinary statement to Daily Mail Australia – which was later posted on Today’s Instagram account, with comments turned off – Steve ‘Burlo’ Burling called the report a ‘fabrication’ based on an outmoded method of TV ratings measurement.
The article said ‘all is not right’ behind the scenes at Today as it falls behind Channel Seven rivals Sunrise, which has won every week of the ratings year so far in the five-city metro market – even though Today is more dominant on the east coast.
Sunrise has an eighteen per cent lead with an average metro audience of 213,000 viewers compared to Today’s 181,000, according to OzTAM overnight figures – however, this method of measuring TV viewership is being phased out because it tells an incomplete picture of who is actually watching television.
Nine has come out swinging against a ‘fabricated’ article claiming the Today show is in crisis due to falling ratings and viewers not warming to Karl Stefanovic’s new co-host Sarah Abo
The story also alleged there have been tensions among the Today show’s presenters, after newsreader Alex Cullen was relegated to the sports desk while entertainment reporter Brooke Boney stepped up to the news desk.
This reshuffle at the start of the year – which coincided with Abo replacing Allison Langdon as co-anchor – is said to have culminated in Cullen making his displeasure known on air by ‘deadpanning’ Stefanovic and Abo.
This incident reportedly resulted in Burling, Nine’s director of morning television, holding a ‘closed-door meeting’ with Cullen.
But Burling has hit back at this damning report in a statement to Daily Mail Australia, saying: ‘The story published today is total fabrication and a distortion of the old-fashioned and out of date overnight ratings system.
‘We are in a good position with Today and Today Extra in metropolitan and east coast audiences, and in the all-important younger demographics.
‘Our team is working brilliantly together and our audience response to the line-up couldn’t be more positive.’
Meanwhile, sources tell Daily Mail Australia there are ‘no daily meetings’ taking place to discuss the future of the Today show, contrary to The Daily Telegraph’s report.
They also say Cullen is not dissatisfied with his new role at Today because sport has always been his ‘passion’.
An unnamed executive was quoted in The Daily Telegraph as saying, ‘Nine bosses are seriously worried and since MAFS ended, there have been daily meetings trying to figure out what to do with Today… The Karl/Sarah combination clearly isn’t connecting with viewers’
Nine’s morning TV boss Steve Burling hit back in a statement to Daily Mail Australia, saying the Telegraph’s numbers are based on an outmoded method of TV ratings measurement
In an extraordinary move, Burling’s statement was later posted in full on the Today show’s Instagram account, with the comments switched off
This year saw the introduction of a new ratings system, Virtual Australia (VOZ), that properly integrates traditional broadcast viewing on TV sets and streaming audiences on connected devices – giving advertisers, journalists and media agencies a better picture of how many people are watching television programs.
This is in contrast to the old system of audience measurement, which was overnight figures collected from people watching live TV in the five most populous cities.
The media stoush between The Daily Telegraph and Channel Nine is driven in part by the Telegraph’s parent company News Corporation being a commercial rival of Nine Entertainment Co. in the newspaper game.
The Telegraph is known for its negative coverage of Nine shows, which intensified when the television giant merged with Fairfax Media in 2018 and became owners of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review – going head-to-head with the News Corp papers in the process.
Sunrise (co-hosted by Natalie Barr, left, and David Koch, right) has an eighteen per cent lead with an average metro audience of 213,000 viewers compared to Today’s 181,000