“It’s not just a job”: Sunrise EP Sean Power’s first months at the helm of Australia’s top brekkie show


Plus: The Queen’s funeral, what’s in store for 2023, and whether he has plans to change things up

It’s been a big year for Seven’s Sunrise, both on and off air. On air, the show has taken the title as Australia’s biggest breakfast show for the 19th year in a row. Behind the scenes, a morning TV operations shake up saw Sean Power take on the role of executive producer after the departure of Michael Pell in April.

Power has worked as a reporter and producer across Seven, 2GB and Nine – including as a producer on 60 Minutes where he received both a Walkley Award and a Kennedy Award for excellence in journalism. He joined Seven in 2017 as a senior producer for 7News.

Mediaweek took a trip to Martin Place to speak to Power about his first months holding the Sunrise reins, how the team tackled the biggest news story of 2022, and what next year looks like for Australia’s most watched breakfast show. 

Hosts Natalie Barr and David ‘Kochie’ Koch

Coming out of Covid

When Power took the EP role, Australia was learning what the promised “new normal” would look like after the lockdowns and restrictions of Covid. For broadcasters dealing with the relentlessness of the pandemic news cycle, the adjustment period was one that required a well thought out game plan.

“The two years prior were so led by Covid, and it was this real life or death stuff,” says Power. “Every press conference was broadcast live, you needed to know what the rules were about when you could leave the house, and what you could and couldn’t do. The threshold of ‘cannot miss’ was at the most extreme. 

Transitioning out of that at the start of this year was certainly one of the big conversations we had when I started: how do you do that? What’s the tone? How much do you draw back on supporting people in the adjustment out of Covid? The approach that we’ve taken is very much about just needing to be fun again.”

Taking the Win

Seven was able to claim an “unbeatable” lead for the show back in August. Now, with the TV ratings survey period over for 2022, the Sunrise team are popping the champagne to celebrate their 19th year in a row in the top spot.

For Power, the real strength of the show is the team that pulls it together.

“Everyone cares so much about Sunrise, it’s the most beautiful thing to see. It’s not just a job for so many people here, it’s so much of their life. We’re all incredibly competitive – we’re very grateful to have won, and that’s always part of it – but it’s the actual magic of making television that gets people in this building every day.

“It has always been about having a team of people both on and off air that are genuinely respectful, caring, warm, and engaged. Getting that right and picking content that means something to people is why Sunrise is the number one show for breakfast in Australia.”


The Sunrise team, 2022

The morning is a busy time for everyone, and even if viewers can only dedicate a couple of minutes to the show in amongst getting ready, Power and the team are grateful for them. 

“We’ll reach close to a million people on an average day. With OzTAM ratings, it’s averaged out over that two hour period between 7am and 9am, but we know people don’t consume breakfast television like that. The expectation that the majority of our audience would sit there and watch the whole show, that’s just not the world we live in – people aren’t working from home anymore, they’ve got to get out the door.

“But to get about almost a million people tuning in every morning to get a five minute, 10 minute, or 15 minute chunk throughout the day – that’s pretty special.”

Remembering Queen Elizabeth II

In an already massive year that involved a federal election and the Commonwealth Games, the most dominating news story was the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September. 

Power says that when a news story of that scale is unfolding – as tragic and as sad as it is – it’s history, and the Sunrise team worked to play their part in it. 

“We had two shows built. One show said that the Queen is really unwell and we’re expecting a statement from the palace. We had another one that announced that she had passed away. It was around three thirty or four in the morning that the final word came in.

Everyone here, by virtue of having worked together so intimately for a good chunk of time, knew how to swing into action. The hosts were up early, wardrobe had all their outfits sorted to meet the guidelines and to be respectful. We had editors who saw the news on their phone when they woke up and just started driving in.”

On air, Sunrise was the top breakfast show of the day, with 5 city Metro OzTAM ratings recording 372,000 viewers that tuned in to watch the coverage unfold – making it the 9th most watched show of the day.

“We got on early, we were good to go at four thirty in the morning, and then we went through pretty much ad free until midday. That is just an astonishing amount of content, particularly as it fell later into the night over the UK, so not as much stuff was coming out.

“That was one of those moments sitting in the control room – just seeing how hard everyone was working made me so proud.”

After the news broke, Power says that there was one major goal on the team’s minds: “We wanted both of our hosts sitting in front of Buckingham Palace and we wanted it to happen as quickly as possible.”

“While we were putting the show to air, Jasmine Kostas (managing editor) and our unit manager pulled flights that were impossible to get, they organised crews that were in other parts of the country – it was like a military logistics operation to make sure we landed there. Lo and behold, it all worked out!

“We had Nat on one flight, Kochie on another flight, I was on a different flight. We all landed in London several hours apart. We had some team members from Seven who were already there on holiday, so they got pulled in. Then we rocked up at the marquee at Buckingham Palace.”

Queen Elizabeth II

Natalie Barr and David Koch outside Buckingham Palace for Sunrise

The team touched down in record time, despite having to make the trip from the other side of the world. It soon became clear that the challenge wasn’t over once they arrived, however.

They were building this media city around us. We had all these scaffolding guys next to us while we’re on air, with drills, building the sets for NBC, because we were literally the first ones there. 

“We had one plug in point to this truck that we pre booked five years ago, two stools that we bought from Tesco that were the hardest chairs to sit on, and this empty marquee. Nat and Kochie were out there for six hours – no return vision, no monitor, one IFB in their ear. I think it reminded Kochie of the most basic Sunrise OB from 18 years ago, but they just soldiered through.”

Looking Ahead

It will be full steam ahead for the Sunrise team heading into 2023. One of the major projects on the cards is a move from the iconic Martin Place studio to South Eveleigh, near Redfern. 

Martin Place has been a sensational home for Seven and Sunrise for a really long time, but part of any good thing is evolution,” says Power. “I think as we start to share more about what that looks like, what the set looks like, and what the show will feel like, people who are lifelong Sunrise viewers will say that we’ve paid a huge amount of respect to that.

“There’s only so much retrofitting you can do. We’re so limited with size – an incredible amount of live television comes out of a very, very small space. 

“In this next location, it’ll be about the combination of still keeping it feeling very comfortable and homely, but bringing in all of that new technology that allows us to ultimately tell stories better.”

Conrad Sewell performing on Sunrise

When asked what 2023 looks like for Sunrise, Power jokes that the team “have just had a week of asking ourselves that exact question.” 

“The year is coming to an end, and I’m super thrilled. We got number one in Melbourne back, which was a priority – so we now have Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth. Brisbane is closer than it’s been in a really long time, but that’s a market we need to focus on next year

“We’ve got the most exciting calendar full of giveaways – major sponsors have come on board for things that we haven’t ever done before on the show – and activations that mean we’ll be bringing our audience with us on some awesome experiences.”

As for whether he’s got plans to shake things up in his second year in the EP role, Power says that his job is about acknowledging that the format and formula works well. 

There’s no intention to start changing stuff for the sake of changing it, which I think is always a fear when anyone new starts somewhere. You’ve got to be so much more clever, strategic, and respectful about those things, because it’s about value adding, not just shifting.”

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