Breakfast TV: Sunrise’s global odyssey

Sunrise’s global odyssey: EP Michael Pell on travel budgets, his new boss and giving away the first Malcolm Turnbull interview

By James Manning

There were a lot of people who wanted our trip to fail,” Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell (middle) told Mediaweek back in his Martin Place office this week after hitting five countries in five days the week prior.

The wave of negativity was most obvious in social media, but also elsewhere, and not just at the Nine Network.

When a television program does something out of the ordinary it is usually about giving the viewers a new experience and meeting the needs of an ad brief. In the case of Sunrise around the world, Pell said it was mainly the former.

“We came up with the trip concept and then approached advertisers after the fact. It was driven by a crazy idea we had that no one had ever done before. We were then lucky a lot of people came on board to support us.”

Flight Centre was the main partner with local tourism bodies across the world at each stop also chipping in. “The sheer amount of money an exercise like this costs means you need a lot of support. Because it was so unusual there was no precedent in terms of costings.”

Pell said there were close to 25 people in the total tour party, some of them flying ahead to prepare each location, others touring with Pell and the hosts Kochie, Sam Armytage, Natalie Barr and Mark Beretta.

When it came to delays, one of the unknowns was customs. “We found out that when you are a big group you can get slowed down by that even when you fast track. We found that sometimes splitting up and just getting in line was quicker.”

For each location the hosts would arrive with their outfit in their carry-ons just in case – something that was handy in New York when they arrived close to air time.

One of the stars of the trip was Sunrise’s longtime chief of staff Monica Lepore who got plenty of camera time marshalling the touring party at each destination and she made it onscreen as one of Kochie’s Angels on the final stop. “After we came up with the idea she had to make it happen,” said Pell.

Pell’s best and worst from the five days: “Best was how little complaining there was and how everyone survived.

“Worst moment was when things happened out of our control like the Heathrow delay.” He admitted finding out Australia had a new Prime Minister when they arrived in the UK was also “not ideal and a little bit concerning”.

As to the behind-the-scenes footage, Pell said they wanted to give people a look into their world. “We had to show the audience the logistics about the trip. They were following it every day and we had to show them what was happening, including the presenters and producers warts and all. The feedback to me was that many found this the most interesting parts of the week.”

Was there a temptation to stay in Cancun on holiday? “We wanted to build on our figures from last week. To stay and have a holiday would have meant the trip was almost in vain.”

What’s next? “We have more big trips in us, even if we can’t outdo this.”

Malcolm Turnbull’s first TV interview as PM was on Today: “We let Today have him at 7am. We still have a news bulletin at 7am.”

Michael Pell’s new boss: Craig Macpherson

“There have been no chats with Craig yet because he is still on gardening leave from Nine. We had a great relationship when he was doing Today Tonight. He is a great operator and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

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