Switch from Doyle to Armytage helps deliver Sunrise ratings win for first month

Michael Pell

Pell: ‘Critics predicted Armageddon’

The first month of ratings appears to have vindicated Seven’s decision to replace long serving Sunrise co-host Melissa Doyle with Weekend Sunrise presenter Samantha Armytage.

Armytage took the helm of the show a month ago at a time when Nine’s Today was threatening to take the ratings lead. However, Sunrise appears to have won itself some ratings breathing space since the switch.

At the time of writing, Sunrise has beaten the Nine rival on all but one occasion in total audience across the five capital cities. And crucially, Sunrise has improved its performance in Melbourne, where Today often beat the Seven show.

Recent years have seen Today pull closer and closer to Sunrise, with the show delivering wins since the appointment of new executive producer Neil Breen at the start of the year.

Prior to Doyle’s departure – to co-present the 4pm national news bulletin on Seven and a new 7pm show on 7Two – some commentators suggested that Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell had made a bad call.

Daily Telegraph columnist Annette Sharp predicted a backlash from viewers in a column which since appears to have been removed from the web. In the piece – which at the time of writing can still be found via Google’s cache – Sharp wrote that Doyle’s departure had been “botched”. She wrote: “Ask the question, does the executive producer know what he is doing? Sunrise EP Michael Pell was a baby when he was handed the keys to the Sunrise Kluger. He was taught by the most dynamic breakfast TV producer Australian television has ever seen, Adam Boland, but given the program’s audience has continued to slide since Pell took over in 2010, maybe TV bosses should look at the executive producer’s part in the losses to Channel 9’s Today show.”

However, Sunrise’s numbers have improved since the change.

Not only has the show maintained its stronghold in Perth and Adelaide, it has won across each of the five cities, Monday to Friday, five times since August 12, signalling progress in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that had been frequently afforded to Channel Nine.

This week, Sunrise has seen a winning margin of almost 100,000 over Today with 390,000 viewers over Today’s 291,000 on Monday alone. Yesterday, Sunrise’s win across the five capitals was slightly tighter – by 357,000 to 298,000. But it won in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, with Today picking up a win in Brisbane.

Executive producer Michael Pell told Encore: “You’re always going to have critics predicting Armageddon. But the world keeps turning. Our focus has been on producing the best show possible for our viewers.”

While the ratings may indicate viewers have accepted the change from Doyle to Armytage, Pell said additional efforts to engage with viewers have also helped as the show has done six outside broadcasts in the last six weeks including a one hour live broadcast of a wedding attended by 100 Sunrise viewers on Hamilton Island on Friday.

The push for outside broadcasts comes weeks before Pell’s former boss and now rival Boland launches Ten’s Wake Up which will be based at Manly Beach rather than in a studio.

Pell said: “In the past six weeks, we’ve broken down traditional TV barriers. We have gotten out from behind the desk to communicate directly with viewers.”

Pell said: “It is always our aim to remain at the forefront of this genre of television. There has been a lot of sampling in the past month or two, and I’m happy those initiatives are resonating with our audience.”

However, audience presenter preferences do appear to be a factor. The Encore Score, which surveys consumers about their views on Australian TV personalities, places Armytage slightly above Doyle in Victoria, and streets ahead in Queensland.

Encore Scores for Mel Doyle and Sam Armytage | Analysis - Acid Test

Encore Scores for Mel Doyle and Sam Armytage | Analysis – Acid Test





However, both presenters are extremely popular with viewers. Nationally Doyle has a positive Encore Score of 12 per cent with a negative score of just two per cent, while Armytage’s is slightly higher with a 13 per cent positive and only one per cent negative score.

Pell said a key part of the smooth transition was the fact that Armytage was already a familiar face to Sunrise viewers. He said: “Sam has long been part of the Sunrise family. She completed a terrific apprenticeship as the host of Weekend Sunrise for six years, and now she is doing an excellent job on the weekday show. It was a natural fit.

“The team is loving getting to know Sam even better, and it looks like the viewers are too.”

Pell said of Doyle’s new news role: “Mel is a huge asset to Seven News She is a terrific journalist and the most genuine person you could meet. She has covered the biggest stories here and around the world for years, and now she is going great guns at night.”

Megan Reynolds
Encore Issue 30This first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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