TVNZ's head of news and current affairs Anthony Flannery has said in the past that Breakfast's popularity comes down to a good combination of "light and shade". And the balance will be tipped in favour of light come September 3 when a new Saturday edition of the show that will be co-presented by Rawdon Christie and Toni Street is launched.
The show, which will be broadcast between 7-9am, will be an extension of the regular Monday to Friday Breakfast format and will replace the Best of Breakfast highlights programme that currently airs on Saturday mornings.
“Underpinned by a strong news focus, the show will also cover lifestyle, entertainment and sports, topics of special interest after the working week is over," Flannery says. "It will be a great start to the weekend for viewers, before they get on with their shopping or kids’ sport.”
Since the new team took over, TVNZ has pushed the fact that ratings for the show have remained stable and in some cases exceeded the Paul and Pippa years. But in the past year Breakfast has slipped from 194,690 all people 5+ last August, to 154,950 in February, to 137,570 in July. Of course, TV3's morning news show Firstline came along in March and its ratings for this July were 31,500.
In April, there was a bit of argy bargy between the two duelling broadcasters about the success or otherwise of the two morning shows.
MediaWorks says Firstline is off to an outstanding start since launching on 7 March, with an average 12.1 percent share in 25-54s and 900,000 people aged 5+ tuning in to watch the show so far. It claims TV ONE’s Breakfast's share is down 11 percent compared to the previous four weeks since Firstline launched.
“People are telling us it is great to have an early morning News programme minus the fluff," says director of news and current affairs, Mark Jennings. "We will continue to develop the programme over the next few months but our focus will remain on providing in depth coverage and analysis of the major news events in New Zealand and overseas.”
Not content to sit back and have tomatoes hurled, however, TVNZ responded to MediaWorks' claims with a swift ratings rebuttal, questioning the use of reach in its Firstline numbers and claiming a decrease in viewers for Breakfast was within the margin of error.
"TV3 has said today that 900,000 viewers have tuned in to its new morning show, Firstline during the past three weeks," the release said. "To provide context, in just one of those weeks (13-17 March) almost one million viewers tuned in to Breakfast. This measurement is a cumulative figure called 'reach' and measures the total number of people who watched a programme across a designated time period—so 962,000 viewers turned on Breakfast at some stage during the week 13-17 March. Reach is rarely quoted because it measures every viewer rather than regular viewers and in advertising a viewer who watches for a few minutes once a week is not considered as important as someone who watches every day for half an hour."
Since launching, TVNZ pointed out that Firstline has had an average of 25,000 viewers per morning, around six times smaller than Breakfast’s audience, which, perhaps slightly surprisingly given the departure of its polarising host, who's now on his way to MediaWorks, has upped its year-on-year audience numbers from 138,000 viewers per morning in March 2010 compared to 150,600 last month.
TVNZ also said TV3's suggestion that Breakfast has lost audience share since Firstline’s launch was inaccurate, with Nielsen TAM data showing Breakfast's average audience during March of 150,600 viewers was down from 154,940 in February. Talented mathletes will see that this in fact a decrease, but TVNZ said this difference in viewership is within the margin of error.
“The sheer volume of Breakfast viewers is clear evidence that the audience likes the new presenting line up, the daily diet of news and business updates, location weather reports and wide variety of content we provide in the morning,” says Flannery. “Right across the world successful morning TV programmes provide a deliberate mix of light and shade. Breakfast is well resourced and therefore able to fully update New Zealanders on everything that’s relevant; what’s happened while they’ve been asleep, what’s happening in the day ahead. It’s fresh, engaging and interactive. It was a ground breaker in terms of respecting and responding to its viewers. We’re confident we’ve got the mix right."