Channel Ten is struggling in the ratings and the financial struggles of its business are also well documented. So what does Channel Ten lack that other channels have got? Could the failure to have a successful breakfast program be part of the problem? Seven has Sunrise, Nine has Today and ABC has News Breakfast, each program has its familiar characters; whether it’s roguish Karl Stefanovic or sharp ‘n’ shiney Sam Armytage, they’re sipping coffee with the bleary-eyed best of us at 6.45am. Meanwhile on Ten, Jamie Oliver is showing us how to make a casserole in 15 minutes. 

Ten have been drowning (not waving) in the 6am-ish to 9am-ish time slot arguably since they canned Good Morning Australia in 1992 and perhaps this abject failure to bring an appealing breakfast offering to the table has contributed to what has been a frankly surprising propensity to disappoint. After all, we’re talking about a network that has brought it’s audiences some brilliant Australian productions with the likes of Offspring and Puberty Blues and imports like The Good Wife, the various Law and Orders from legendary US producer Dick Wolf, and absolute giants like L.A. Law.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Ten tried to break back into the traditional breakfast news market. Their toe-dip was Breakfast, which media analyst Steve Allen says was ill-conceived due to the polarising presence of shock jock Paul Henry. And, let’s face it, if this brilliantly cringe-worthy appearance from Shaun Micallef couldn’t attract viewers, who knows what would have.

Ten binned Breakfast after only a year when it became clear that it was failing to resonate with viewers. The cut was described as a mercy killing, with an average of around 40,000 viewers tuning in each day. That figure pales in comparison to Today and Sunrise, which averaged well over 300,000 viewers.

The successor of Breakfast was Wake Up, which Allen reckons was “a fair crack at the market” but it too was swiftly sidelined; after only being on air for six months it was cancelled due to a complete failure to win an audience with a dismal average of 30,000 viewers each day. Perhaps due to the show’s too-similar offerings (a surfy beach-side studio being the only marked difference to heavyweights Today and Sunrise) and clunky interaction between the hosts.

Ten’s only current morning offering is Studio 10, which kicks off at 8.30am, ending at 11am, and its modest success (ratings of 120,000 to 150,000 nationally) begs the question why the network has failed so badly to provide a challenger for the likes of Today, Sunrise and the ABC.

Allen says that “breakfast only gives you bragging rights”,  however he does grant that when one looks closely at the ecosystem of a network there are three pretty significant tools that a healthy news program can offer its network.

The most crucial of these tools is cross promotion; “if a team gets voted off My Kitchen Rules you’re very likely see them on Sunrise the next morning,” Allen said. This is cheap, easy cross-advertising that provides “exclusive” marketing fodder for the peak-time program.

The second notable up-side that Allen points out is the “flow into early afternoon programming”. If the breakfast offerings can hold viewers until 11am, reports show that those same viewers tend to stick around for Ellen at 12pm. 

According to Allen, the final crucial tool for a popular breakfast news program is “breaking news”.  If a major local or global event takes place overnight, and a morning (or even a day) of breaking news ensues, viewers are likely to turn to their trusted TV news sources like Today, Sunrise and ABC News Breakfast. The fact that Ten has no consistent morning news offering would leave it high and dry in such an instance.

Of course, it would  be silly and misguided to think that Ten’s woes are entirely rooted in a lack of breakfast news but it’s certainly worth adding to the pile of missteps they’ve taken. Especially because they’re the only major free-to-air network that’s showing people how to roast a chicken at 7am.

Peter Fray

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