The Seven Network has changed the nature of Sunday morning television. Long the home of serious agenda-setting programs like Business Sunday, Sunday, The Insiders and the old Sunday Sunrise, Seven decided to go popular about a month ago after lobbying from the executive producer of weekday Sunrise, Adam Boland.

In fact, since Sunday first went to air in the
closing months of 1982 with a format that featured talking heads,
discussion and serious current affairs journalism, it has become
something of an institution. But as Nine seeks to cut costs, it will
take a close look at what Seven has done and will have to decide if it
goes down that route.

So Sunday Sunrise has been junked. Gone are executive producer
Sabra Lane, the political interview with Mark Riley and the business
and finance coverage with Michael Pascoe, and it’s now a clone of Sunrise. Weekend Sunrise
was hosted by Chris Reason, retained from the old Sunday show, and ACP
magazine editor and sometime talking head, Lisa Wilkinson, with
newsreader Simon Reeve.

And it’s worked, with the average audience jumping 80% or more on
Sunday, and it managed this when it was against the US Masters golf on
the Nine Network which pre-empted Business Sunday (it did
the same a week earlier for news on the Pope’s death and the Sea King
deaths). The basis for the comparison is influenced a little by the
fact that a year ago, last weekend was Easter. But the Masters was
played on that weekend (the same weekend every year) and Sunday Sunrise in its old guise attracted 175,070 people.

On Sunday the audience averaged 320,000 in its new form, just behind Sunday on 329,000 (although the golf ran well past 9:45am) and influenced the figures). That’s a good day during the week for the old Sunrise. Insiders on the ABC attracted 195,000 people (not on last year) and Inside Business
did 92,000 for its strongest show of the year with good interviews with
Westpac’s David Morgan and the Secretary General of Opec.

Ten’s Meet the Press struggled with only 59,000, down from
105,000 a year ago. With figures like that Seven will force Nine to
either get serious about Sunday mornings and restructure Sunday and Business Sunday to turn it into a coherent three-hour program and cut costs, or junk both programs and go with Today On Sunday to try and extend the audience and the brand.

Peter Fray

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