Breakfast table is too crowded

Breakfast table is too crowded

Posted February 19th, 2012 by debritz

As Channel Ten prepares to re-enter the breakfast television arena, I ask a question I've asked many times before: Why?

Putting together is a breakfast TV show, as Ten has done, is not only expensive, it would seem to be pointless -- simply because there are not enough viewers to go around the Ten, Seven, Nine and ABC offerings.

As the Sun-Herald reports today, morning shows have very small total audiences -- less than a fifth of the total population tune in at all, and then only for a matter of minutes per week.

Michael Lallo writes:

The Sunday Age commissioned a report from ratings provider OzTAM. It showed that more than 1 million Melburnians watched at least eight minutes of Sunrise, Today or ABC News Breakfast at least once last week. Still, this was dwarfed by the 3 million who heard at least eight minutes of breakfast radio. Nationally, 4 million Australians watched breakfast TV while 10 million listened to radio.

Additionally, morning viewers are not as engaged (because they are getting ready for the day, getting dressed, shouting at kids and preparing school lunches) as those watching prime-time shows. While advertisers don't pay as much for morning ads, they do pay enough, apparently, to sustain the shows and the salaries (and egos) of their stars.

But will that continue as times get tougher - meaning advertisers will start to re-examine the bang they're getting for their buck - and another slice is cut out of the commercial pie?

The Sun-Herald story appears to reach a different conclusion, but I can see no sensible reason for breakfast TV to be a ratings battleground.

Unlike with radio, it doesn't even set up an audience habit for the rest of the day. TV viewers dial-hop much more than radio listeners (despite attempts to thwart them from doing so by having programs overrun their timeslots).

One reason for this is that television has always been seen as an assemblage of different shows, while radio runs a continuous programming theme, be it news-talk or a particular type of music. Another, more practical, reason is that most radio receivers start up on the same station they were last tuned-in to, while many television sets no longer do.

Ten seems to be hitching the success of its Breakfast show to the acceptance of controversial New Zealand broadcaster Paul Henry, whose previous, and only, claim to fame is getting reprimanded for being both juvenile and racist in deliberately mispronouncing the name of an Indian official.

TV's a funny beast and there's a chance the show will work thanks to the PT Barnum observation that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the general public. Or, like The Bolt Report, it may remain on air for reasons other than the popular embrace.

Given the bizarre programming choices made by Ten in recent times (including its failed attempt to turn itself into a news and current affairs powerhouse, and its misguided mucking about with The Project), there's not a lot of cause for confidence that it will get this right.

One thing's for sure: all three stations are disproportionately focusing effort on this timeslot. At least one of the shows will either not exist, or will be significantly altered, by this time next year.

Mind you, having said that, one of the free-to-air networks may not exist in its current form by this time next year. But that's another story.