Struggling … Breakfast.The Ten Network’s hopes of a last-ditch ratings revival for its ailing breakfast show are riding on the possibility that Nine viewers might sample and defect to it while Today is off air during the Olympics, according to sources within the number-three network.
A cut in Breakfast’s budget of around $2 million is also being made to the show, which was the brainchild of Ten’s chairman Lachlan Murdoch.
At $7 million Breakfast’s budget is already half that of competitors Sunrise and Today and the dwindling support will inevitably be read as a sign of a lack of confidence in the show by senior management.
Ten sources say that senior executives believe that Today’s absence from TV sets during the Olympics is the best – some say last – chance the network has of lifting its figures, which have dipped to an average audience of just 38,000 – roughly a tenth of Sunrise or Today’s audience.
If there is not a lift the clock is ticking for the program, say the sources.
Ten denies the program is for the chop.
A spokesman said: “We remain committed to Breakfast and the strategy of providing our viewers with news coverage from breakfast to bedtime, something no other commercial free to air TV network offers. There is, of course, a lot of talk about Breakfast, the vast majority of which is completely ill-informed. Breakfast’s ratings are not what we want them to be, but clearly we are not abandoning the program.”
There is now speculation within Ten’s Sydney headquarters that if the show is axed then Breakfast’s anchor host, the Kiwi shock jock Paul Henry, will be used across its light entertainment shows rather than pay him out of his three-year contract, which Mr Henry crowed was at least $1 million.
“Why would you spend $7 million producing a show that no one wants to watch in order to save his [Paul Henry’s] $330,000 a year salary. It just doesn’t make sense,” said one person familiar with the plan.
On Monday Ten announced the show would be tweaked with a new set, a stronger news focus and new newsreaders in Matt Doran and Natarsha Belling. The announcement came as it announced it was axing its mid-morning show The Circle to keep costs down.
From Monday Breakfast will run a half hour shorter from 6am to 8.30am.
Ever since its launch in February Breakfast – which replaced a mix of news and cartoons that brought in just $3 million – had failed to attract audiences above 50,000.
Contrast this with Nine’s Today and Seven’s Sunrise which attract an average audience of between 350,000 and 370,000 in the key 7am to 9am prime time slot and that the average viewing audiences for breakfast television is actually growing.
And with up to $130 million in advertising and sponsorship up for grabs, breakfast is a lucrative market but one that to dale has eluded Ten. Ten executives insist Breakfast is making more money than the mix of news and cartoons that preceded it.
A Ten spokesman said it did not discuss budgets and that the speculation about Mr Henry’s future was “rubbish”.
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