The job description for Firstline is deceptively simple: “Just the facts, ma’am.” The new show has opted out of the standard fare of shockjock antics and warm and fuzzy stories that has characterised breakfast television in recent years, choosing instead a pure news bulletin format.
So has it worked?
The new TV3 show has certainly delivered significantly higher ratings than its predecessor Sunrise was achieving a year ago. The first four weeks of Firstline have averaged ratings (for all people 25-54) that are 36% higher than Sunrise could manage over the equivalent period in 2010.
That’s not quite the full story, though. Television One’s Breakfast ratings are up nearly as much over the same period, increasing 30% year on year.
As a result, channel shares over the morning marmalade have stayed nearly the same. Sunrise captured 16.9% of our breakfast programme attention in March 2010; Firstline has lifted that share to 17.6%. One Breakfast continues to dominate, with the remaining 82.4%.
Overall, there has been a useful increase in breakfast television viewing in 2011 – but, although it might be flattering to attribute that increase to the new Snap, Crackle and Pop of televisual competition, we suspect that the steady stream of floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and reactors gone wild are more responsible for the current urge to catch the latest headlines before joining the morning rush.
There is one useful trend indicator that suggests interesting times may lie ahead. The number of Kiwis aged 25-54 who tuned in to Television One Breakfast at any time during the week (the weekly cumulative audience) was substantial for the first two weeks of the monitored period, then dropped away as urgency diminished. Firstline cumulative audiences, on the other hand, have remained surprisingly consistent throughout the first four weeks of the programme’s existence.
It’s too soon to read much into these tentative entrails, but we wonder where they will lead …