Audience dives since Henry's departure

By Rebecca Lewis

Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell. Photo / Janna Dixon
Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell. Photo / Janna Dixon

Paul Henry's departure from Breakfast has been followed by a drop in the show's ratings.

In the four weeks since the controversial host left TVNZ's hugely popular programme, the total weekly audience reach has fallen from 988,600 viewers to 806,800.

But media commentators are divided over whether Henry's resignation over his inflammatory comments about Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand will continue to see ratings slide.

Ron Sneddon, media director at Auckland advertising agency Mr Smith, said one month was not enough time to accurately gauge the Breakfast audience post-Henry.

"The fact is, he's picked up a personality cult, where people watch the show for him," said Sneddon.

"I fear that there will be a downward trend [in viewers]. When you take someone like him out of the mix, the people who watch it for him will not, unless they can come up with something better.

"Anecdotally, people are saying that it's not the same without him."

Sneddon said Henry's fill-in replacements, Rawdon Christie and Greg Boyed, were "not Paul Henry".

Media consultant and commentator Martin Gillman said: "Paul Henry grabbed viewers' attention and without him the show is tame and conspicuously politically correct.

"Like most other early morning viewers I still have the Breakfast TV habit every weekday. But my attention is a bit lower and over time I might slip away - particularly if there is some competition for my attention."

Gillman said Henry's popularity worked wonders for the profile of other presenters on the show, including weatherman Tamati Coffey.

But veteran media commentator Brian Edwards said the habits of the core Breakfast audience would be difficult to break.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said the network was pleased with the programme's "solid foundations".

The show was still drawing in double the audience it was last year, she said.

During the week of Henry's comments, the total weekly reach was 466,000 people in TVNZ's 25-54 target demographic. This dropped to 401,900 as of the start of last week.

Average daily audience reach has remained fairly steady, with only a slight drop in the 25-54 demographic from 253,900 to 241,600.

Richards said seasonal changes could affect ratings at this time of the year - as less people generally watched TV in summer.

There could also be some evening out as the ratings settled from their highest peaks - continual growth was never guaranteed. She urged people to avoid premature judgments on the ratings.

"Yes, the total weekly reach has dropped, as it always does at this time of the year," said Richards.

"There is nothing sensible at all that we can say regarding Paul Henry's departure, except that looking at data over a small period of time it appears the size of the Breakfast audience has not changed significantly one way or the other.

"Whether its composition has changed is impossible to tell."

Richards said TVNZ had no announcement to make yet about a permanent replacement for Henry.

- Herald on Sunday

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