Axed: Melissa Doyle, pictured with co-host David Koch. Photo: Channel Seven
When Melissa Doyle tearily "resigned" from Sunrise last month, some predicted a ratings crash. It hasn't happened.
Reports of 40,000 viewers "switching off" since Samantha Armytage took over need to be put into perspective.
The effect of Melissa Doyle's absence from Sunrise will have to be more pronounced than a blip of 40,000
Losses and gains of this size happen every day in breakfast television.
Samantha Armytage is the new host of Sunrise on Prime.
The day Doyle announced her departure, she had 30,000 fewer viewers than the day before.
That same week, the rival Today program on Channel Nine lost more than 30,000 viewers in two days. One week later, it gained 70,000 viewers – only to lose them five days later.
It's true that Sunrise's ratings have softened since Armytage began on June 24.
It's also true that Today lost more viewers than Sunrise did in this period.
The drops are minor – and they happen every year during school holidays.
Sunrise and Today are "habit" shows. They are part of viewers' morning routines, along with breakfast and getting the kids ready for school.
When the children are off school or families are away on holiday, these routines go out the window.
Nobody sets their alarm to watch Sunrise. If they happen to be at home, they'll still tune in but sleep ins and morning walks on the beach make this less likely.
Once holidays are over, the routines return and the ratings settle.
Yet breakfast TV ratings are notoriously volatile for another reason: very few people watch the programs from beginning to end. Rather, they catch half an hour here or 20 minutes there.
This explains why their overall ratings are so low even though an astonishing 4 million Australians tune in to Sunrise, Today or ABC News Breakfast each week.
Once you divide the total number of viewers for each show over their 3.5-hour length, you end up with an average audience of just a few hundred thousand. (What's more, Sunrise and Today are divided into three ratings timeslots: 5.30am -6am, 6-7 and 7-9. Of course, they choose to release only the highest-rating 7am to 9am figures to media.)
It's also worth noting that for all the headlines these programs generate, most Australians – 10 million in total – are listening to breakfast radio.
Doyle's departure from Sunrise may well affect the ratings but it is simply too early to tell (not least because she will return to Sunrise soon, until her new role begins in several weeks). And the effect of her absence will have to be more pronounced than a blip of 40,000.
In the meantime, the program remains the ratings king.
Its lead, however, is being challenged by Today, which is on track to claim victory in Melbourne for its sixth consecutive year and its third in Sydney.
Despite losing the two biggest markets in Australia, Sunrise wins nationally because of comprehensive victories in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
But soon, Sunrise and Today will face stiff competition from a new Channel Ten rival, to be revealed next week.
It is being created by former Sunrise producer Adam Boland, who re-invented breakfast television a decade ago and took Sunrise to the top.
All the signs are pointing to a dramatic ratings war. For now, however, Sunrise has not lost the battle.