The announcement on Friday that Dr Andrew Rochford was moving on from Ten Breakfast was hardly a surprise. The show has failed to garner any traction ratings-wise and now, just over five months since the shows launch, we’ve seen the first casualty from the show. If ratings continue as they have been, averaging about a tenth of the audience size of the competing Sunrise and Today, the loss of Rochford is unlikely to be the last of the changes that will be made. The problem is that the show just isn’t the right format for Ten at breakast time.
Ten is a youth network, but Breakfast does not feel like a youth-driven show. I may be showing my age, but when I think of Ten, my mind immediately goes to The Simpsons - a show that is emblematic of what Ten is supposed to be all about: bright, offbeat, clever, silly, irreverant, youthful, counter-culture (yet at the same time, deeply immersed in culture), and mocking of the establishment. Ten’s Breakfast program is….well…. the set design is bright.
With a show that seems to skew older than the perceived Ten audience, it’s difficult to understand what Ten are trying to achieve. Breakfast on Ten feels like a compromise between an available budget and an attempt to do what Seven and Nine have done with their own breakfast shows. It lacks the spark and originality that a Ten breakfast show needs in order to stand out from the pack and to be, well, Ten.
Breakfast exists to better sell advertising. Promotions, package deals, and generating buzz to strengthen the Ten brand is why the addition of a breakfast show is so appealing. Ultimately, the show doesn’t need to rate tremendously well. As long as the numbers are high enough to appease sponsors that is enough. The buzz is really the important thing here. And when was the last time you heard anyone talk about the show outside of the context of it being a ratings dud?What can Ten do to reverse their fortunes with this show? There are a number of possibilities, but where I would focus is here:
There is nothing about the current hosts of the show that speak to a youth audience. Each of the hosts sit firmly as Gen X, with Paul Henry sitting towards the extreme upper end of Gen X. Compound their age with the fact that the hosts don’t appear to engage with youth culture and it’s evident a problem.Instead, stack the front desk with three mature-minded, yet connected young hosts in their mid to late 20′s. Why relegate on-air talent like Dan Ilic and Marc Fennel to guest spots and recurring segments when it’s guys like that which should be fronting a youth-orientated breakfast show?
Strip it back and get rid of the fancy couch. The couch is a transparent way to make the hosts look at home and comfortable with the audience. It is so over-used now that it feels phoney. It needs to feel less manipulative and more somewhere comfortable enough to hang out for a few hours before you go to work/school/uni. If that means it needs to feel more like a conventional TV set, than so be it. The casual couch just feels a little like it is pandering.
The set should also feel like a Gen Y space with tech cluttering it up somewhat. Let the hosts have their laptops, iPads, tablets, and phones clutter up on a table in front of them. To have young, connected folk more than an arms reach away from their devices seems disingenuous.And speaking of which:
The show needs to feel connected. Have the hosts read aloud tweets. Have the hosts respond back to tweets on the TV in real time. Why did Breakfast launch with voicemails being aired when reading aloud messages recorded on Soundcloud would feel a whole lot more current and, importantly, authentic?
With that comes Internet culture. Give us the top 5 most interesting things found on Etsy this week. What’s that great Instagrammed picture Insert Name Of Host saw on the weekend that has to be shared? What were the most ridiculous and fun costumes seen during Cosplay at a convention on the weekend? Why is MOG a bit lame compared to Spotify?
The most important thing one can do with a breakfast show like this is to open up the show and its hosts to connect with the audience. Here you have an entire audience that is connected with each other, but not connected at all with your show?
Currently Ten Breakfast regularly bring on commentators and experts to talk about Internet-related news and issues, but it isn’t fused to the DNA of the program. That needs to change.
Yes, young people are interested in the news, carbon tax, politics, etc. But, you also need to give them content that relates closely to their own lives as well. In that, they’re just like any TV audience. Just make sure that you’re tailoring content to an audience who are reaching for their phone first thing in the morning and the TV remote second.
It’s Channel Ten. As ‘Serious’ as Ten is, it also needs to be a little bit screwball. Tens audience are young and young people enjoy content that can be a little playful. Over the weekend I jokingly suggested on Twitter that former Ch 10 “identity” Marty Monster should serve as Andrew Rochfords replacement. Trying to sell such a move would be completely ridiculous, as this artists impression indicates:
But, maybe it isn’t such a ridiculous idea. Perhaps what Ten needs to establish a point of difference and bring some fun and anarchy to their Breakfast show is a taste of ridiculousness. The answer may not be Marty Monster per se, but a news/casual entertainment show at breakfast time on Channel Ten can afford to be much looser than their competitors could allow. Should an interactive mascot like a Marty Monster be completely out of the question? Heavens no.
Why do they persist with weather reports throughout the morning that suck away time and bore the viewer? Former Sunrise EP Adam Boland once mentioned on Twitter that Sunrise received a lot of complaints from viewers when they took away the weather from that show. Where Sunrise has a much broader audience, Ten can get away with it. The Ten audience has at least one weather app on their phones and if they care about the weather, there is a good chance that they’ve already checked their app well before they’ve climbed out of bed and are even considering searching for the remote control.
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It is clear that Ten’s current strategy with Breakfast isn’t working. They’re going to remain committed to it (one of the things I do like about Ten), but one has to wonder why. Currently they have a TV show that is trying to talk to its audience, instead of talking with them.
Is this connected youth audience actually important to Ten and its Breakfast show? Consider that Ten is a youth broadcaster with a focus that is understood to be on the 16-39 demographic. With the older-end of Gen Y at about 31/32 years of age, Gen Y populates most of that desired demo.
The failure of Ten’s Breakfast is quite simple. It’s off-brand, fails to create a point of difference, and it refuses to engage the audience with the conversation. It’s a shame as they have a real opportunity to do something special.