The Ten Network has this morning announced significant changes to its morning schedule in an attempt to save its struggling Breakfast program.
The casualty is the mid-morning talk show The Circle, a program that consistently out-rates Breakfast and enjoys a strong connection with its audience via social media.
The Circle will present its final episode this Friday.
Breakfast will continue with Paul Henry (pictured), Kathryn Robinson and Magdalena Roze, but will end at 8.30am instead of 9.00am as it does now.
From Monday the new mid-morning line-up will be pre-school program Wurrawhy, US talk show The Talk (created and hosted by former Roseanne star Sara Gilbert), Ten Morning News with Ron Wilson, Entertainment Tonight (up until recently shown on Nine/GO!) and its spin-off program The Insider.
Breakfast, which began back in February, has struggled to gain even a modest following in the competitive early morning timeslot, coming a distant fourth behind Sunrise, Today and even ABC News Breakfast. The appointment of controversial New Zealand broadcaster Henry (for a reported $NZ1 million) has done little to boost Ten’s profile in the timeslot. Public criticism in online forums indicate that while Henry might be the show’s most expensive asset, he is also its greatest liability.
The recent departure of Breakfast co-host Andrew Rochford and executive producer Majella Wiemers indicated that a lot is not well behind the scenes. Wiemers was replaced by Sarah Bristow, a former producer of TVNZ‘s Breakfast program — the same program that Henry previously hosted.
The axing of The Circle comes as it had also struggled to maintain a higher profile up against The Morning Show (Seven) and its lookalike rival Mornings (Nine). The Circle has also failed to consistently fill the gap left by the departures of Denise Drysdale and Chrissie Swan at the end of last year, with guest hosts appearing alongside Yumi Stynes and Gorgi Coghlan (pictured), and ratings have fluctuated as a result.
Ironically, Drysdale appeared as a guest on The Circle this morning.
Last year The Circle won a TV Week Logie for Most Popular Light Entertainment Program, and Swan won for Most Popular New Female Talent.
Anthony Flannery, Ten’s chief of news and current affairs — and also a former New Zealander — said in a statement issued today:
“We appreciate the efforts and dedication of everyone involved with The Circle, including Executive Producer Pam Barnes. Network Ten remains focused on providing viewers with a comprehensive News and Current Affairs line-up from breakfast to bedtime, with Breakfast, Ten News At Five, The Project, Ten Late News and now Ten Morning News.”
The axing of The Circle marks the end of a long tradition of mid-morning television at Ten that in some instances date back over 40 years — including local shows in each state and subsequent national programs Til Ten (1989-1991), The Morning Show (1992), Good Morning Australia (1993-2005), 9AM With David And Kim (2006-2009) and The Circle (since 2010).
Ten’s persistence with Breakfast comes after last year’s failed experiment to expand its Ten News At Five bulletin to 90 minutes and launching a nightly current affairs program with George Negus.