“Beyond a television show”: How Sunrise achieved two decades on top

Seven - Sunrise - Edwina Bartholomew, Natalie Barr, Matt Shirvington and Mark Beretta

Sean Power: “The reality is that we want all Australians to watch us in the morning”

In 2023, The Seven Network‘s Sunrise took the title of Australia’s most-watched breakfast program, 20 years after it first won the breakfast TV crown.  

Hosted by Natalie Barr and Matt Shirvington (who took over co-hosting duties from David Koch in June this year), behind the scenes the show is driven by director of morning television, Sarah Stinson, and executive producer, Sean Power.

Mediaweek caught up with Stinson and Power to speak about two decades at the top, and what next year holds. 


Sean Power and Sarah Stinson

Claiming the title of top breakfast show for 20 years is no small feat, and Stinson said it comes down to the fact that “Sunrise knows exactly who we are, and it’s always been about the viewers.”

Stinson: “It’s a very agile show. The needs and wants of viewers have changed over the past two decades, we’re leaning in and then facilitating a programme that listens to what Australians want and need at that particular time.”

The biggest change of the year came when David ‘Kochie’ Koch left the show after 21 years behind the desk. Stepping up to the plate to join Nat Barr as permanent host was Matt ‘Shirvo’ Shirvington – A man Koch called “absolutely perfect for us.”

See Also: “All I can say is thank you”: Kochie signs off from Sunrise

Stinson said the audience’s response to the change has been overwhelmingly positive – much to the relief of the team.

Stinson: “Shirvo was part of the Sunrise family well before he took over the main role. The feedback that we’ve got has been nothing but positive – he’s such a decent human being, and he’s so focused, passionate, and committed. 

“Being a professional athlete for so long, you need to make sure that you hone your skills and further your skill set – that’s what he’s doing and has done. He and Nat have such natural chemistry, and that’s come across on air. We’ve been absolutely thrilled – and relieved.”

For those who may find it difficult to pinpoint who, exactly, ‘the Surnise audience’ is, the pair say that it’s simple: the show’s target audience is everyone and anyone. As television evolves to be accessible in more places than ever, the show continues to grow alongside it. 

Power: “We are growing, and we’re growing across different platforms. The beauty of the show is that it has so many touch points – it’s not like we’re trying to target an individual or one particular demo, the reality is that we want all Australians to watch us in the morning

“We do that through news, sport, and the programme segments we do. Ultimately, it’s about finding as many Australians in the morning as we can so they can start their day with Sunrise.”

Stinson: “Sunrise is accessible, anyone of whatever demographic will turn it on and we’d like to think they’ll get something out of it. The way that people watch our programme has changed, it’s changing quicker than ever before – which creates so much opportunity. 

“People don’t have to be limited to the geographical constraints of their living room, they can watch it on their phone, they can watch it on streaming, they can watch it on socials. A lot more people are sampling our programme who wouldn’t have been able to before. Sunrise now is beyond a television show.”

Behind the scenes of Sunrise

Of course, it’s not just audiences the show works to keep happy. For the brands engaging with Sunrise and its viewers, it’s all about the results that good content brings.  

Stinson: “We’ve had an amazing commercial year with a lot of our partners. We’ve got our key partners like QANTAS, Accor, and Coles, and we’ve got a new big one that hasn’t been announced yet. 

We work on return business. Particularly with the advertising market, brands must have a really enjoyable and lucrative experience working with you – which they have. Everyone who works with us sticks with us, because they’re happy with the results.”

Power: “We look at how we can complement some of the awesome TV moments we want to create. Coming into this year, we went and spoke with some of Australia’s biggest companies and asked them what they would like to see come to fruition from a commercial perspective and the conversation they want to have. But we haven’t let that ever dictate or drive the conversation. 

It’s been about creating good content first and foremost, and working with them to do that. Thankfully, we have some amazing partners who have been willing to take a few risks along the way.”

Looking ahead, the pair agree that only one thing is certain for 2024 – and that’s that there will be no telling what’s on the horizon. 

Stinson: “You just can’t predict anything in this industry, you can’t predict anything in this world at the moment. We’re going to keep producing the best possible show we can and keep on evolving and growing the programme.

The last thing Sean and I say to each other late on Sunday night when we finalise the rundown for Monday is ‘I wonder what the writers have in store for us this week?’

Power: “We never take the fact that there’s such extraordinary dominance for granted. We all work on that every single day, and every person in the team plays a part in that success. 

Some of the things on the whiteboard are outrageously huge, and I think that’s so incredibly exciting. We’re going to see how many we can tick off, because if we get to do even half of them, then I know that our audience is in for a bloody good time.”

Top Image: Edwina Bartholomew, Natalie Barr, Matt Shirvington and Mark Beretta

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