Today v Sunrise: Battle lines drawn in brekkie war
Shots have been fired and battle lines drawn as Aussie breakfast TV faces its fiercest fight in years.
With Karl Stefanovic back in the hosting chair, Nine is determined to bump off Seven's Sunrise, which has dominated breakfast TV ratings for more than a decade.
In a sign no expense is being spared and executives are taking the fight seriously as they attempt to lure viewers their way, Nine has launched the year by giving away a house in Melbourne while Seven is splashing the cash with a $1 million prize.
And that's even before the official ratings year kicks off next week with high profile hosts on both sides returning to work at the beginning of January to get a head start on the year and cement viewer loyalty.
"Attacking and defending is becoming expensive with no real sign of boosted audience," leading media analyst Steve Allen told Confidential. "It seems a nil sum game but both have to play it."
Early indications though have been that bringing Stefanovic back has not made the big impact producers would have been hoping for, especially with Nine having the added momentum of broadcasting live from the Australian Open.
Nine director of morning television Steve Burling has however said it is a long-term proposition, promising an audience increase of 10 per cent for the year.
Having made their return on January 4, the new look team lead by Stefanovic and Langdon has already seen viewer numbers drop to a low this year of 183,000. The national five city average for 2019, with Georgie Gardner and Deb Knight hosting, was 195,000.
The lowest figure for Today last year was 155,000, which prompted executives to bring Stefanovic back and take a broom to the rest of the office.
And in what can only be seen as a bid to regain viewer trust, Nine this week launched a bizarre Silence of the Lambs promo video for Today.
The spoof video features Stefanovic as Dr Hannibal Lecter and Allison Langdon as Clarice Starling.
"Apparently I have been a very naughty boy," Stefanovic said in the video, standing in a suit in a jail cell behind bars, obviously referring to ongoing drama in his personal life.
Langdon responds: "This time Karl things are going to be different. Everyone is watching Karl, are you going to behave?"
To that, Stefanovic looks straight to camera, saying: "Well, you are just going to have to trust me."
The promo premiered on the network during Monday night's season debut of ratings juggernaut Married At First Sight with the slogan: "This year breakfast television gets juicy. It won't be boring."
One industry executive described the promo as "odd" and "disturbing".
"Female viewers will hate it, who wants to wake up with a serial killer?" one exec noted. "If the aim is to sell a new era in Today, it is a big fail that is frankly creepy and completely off the mark."
The new promo received a mixed response on the Today official Facebook page.
"You can make all the spoof adds you want but I doubt even Hannibal Lecter would get into the new today show," one follower wrote, another responding: "I can't take it!!! It's all very fake!!! I stopped watching, they're trying so hard to entertain using make believe humour,".
Another commented, "Getting more like play school every day! And we think Sunrise is childish!"
The new look Today team sees Stefanovic and Langdon supported by newsreader Tracey Vo, weather presenter Tim Davies, sports journalist Alex Cullen and entertainment reporter Brooke Boney.