Lachlan Murdoch’s ‘Breakfast of chumpions’

Lachlan Murdoch's 'Breakfast of chumpions'

If Lachlan Murdoch is banking on boy wonder Adam Boland to come over to Channel Ten and save his struggling Breakfast program, he may well be disappointed.

Attempts to reach the star TV producer today at Channel Seven were unsuccessful, but his boss Peter Meakin told The Power Index, “I’d be very surprised if Adam wants to get involved in that bear’s nest. In fact he’s told me it’s nonsense. He’s not going to over to Ten to run Breakfast.”

“I would think he’d prefer my job for a start,” Meakin continued.

“Is that possible?” we inquired.

“Everything’s possible,” he replied. “I’m not going to be around forever.”

Boland, of course, is the man who made Sunrise such a ratings success at Channel Seven and knocked the Today show off its perch. And his touch is sorely needed with Channel Ten’s Breakfast, which is pulling in roughly one-tenth of the number of viewers that its morning rivals are getting.

The program has been on air only five months, but it has already lost one of its hosts, Andrew Rochford, and an executive producer, Majella Wiemers. Many are surprised the program hasn’t been boned as well.

This week, staffers at Ten were called for a meeting, expecting to hear Breakfast had been cancelled. Instead, they were told by CEO James Warburton that Ten was closing the much cheaper and more successful The Circle, which was fronted until recently by gold-Logie nominee Chrissie Swan.

According to ex-Ten executives (and there are stacks of them around since Lachlan arrived) Breakfast would be costing about $7 million a year to produce, while bringing in little or no revenue from its 30,000 audience. Around $1 million of the budget is apparently being trousered by its Kiwi shock-jock host Paul Henry, who has not gone down well with audiences.

Henry, who famously resigned from TVNZ in 2010 after referring to Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as “dick shit” and “dip shit” in between bursts of high-pitched laughter, was Lachlan’s personal pick for the role, and was hired by the mini Murdoch, who flew to New Zealand to meet him.

One former Ten executive describes the hiring bluntly to The Power Index as, “The worst on-air appointment I’ve seen in 20 years”.

Peter Meakin is a little kinder. “I haven’t seen much of Breakfast, like most of Australia,” he says. “But I thought Paul Henry quite good. The accent is a bit of a problem for Australian TV, though, and I think he’d make a better sidekick.”

So can the program be saved, with or without Boland? “I don’t know,” says Meakin. “Some programs get to the stage that they’re like the loyal family Labrador; the kindest thing is to put them down. I think it’s at that stage, personally.”

Sadly for Lachlan and Channel Ten, Breakfast is just the beginning of the network’s problems. Since Murdoch and James Packer bought into Ten at the end of 2010, the channel has seen its revenues slump by around 10% and profits fall by around two-thirds. Ratings and revenue share have also fallen, with Ten capturing only 25.5% of the TV market’s ad revenue for the first six months of 2012, which is its lowest share on record, since surveys began in 2005.

Worst of all, perhaps, Ten’s share price is now down to 49 cents, from around $1.50 when Lachlan and James bought in, so the pair have lost about two-thirds of their money.

So can it bounce back, with or without Boland’s help? Not if you ask Australia’s stockmarket analysts, the majority of whom rate Ten’s shares a ‘sell’, even at current bargain prices.

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