Wake Up hosts, from left, Nuala Hafner, James Mathison, Natarsha Belling and Natasha Exelby. Photo: Anthony Johnson Ten’s former Breakfast hosts, from left, Magdalena Roze, Paul Henry, Andrew Rochford and Kathryn Robinson.
Eight months after axing its failed Breakfast program, Channel Ten is having another crack at the lucrative early morning TV market – launching a rival to Sunrise and Today called Wake Up.
Hosted by journalists Natarsha Belling and Natasha Exelby, and former Australian Idol co-host James Mathison, it will be broadcast from a surf club in Manly instead of a traditional TV studio.
The program has been created by TV “wonder boy” and former Sunrise producer Adam Boland, who took that show to No. 1 and turned hosts Melissa Doyle and David Koch into household names.
Wake Up will be the only breakfast show to feature local news in every state. Nuala Hafner will be the national news presenter, based in Melbourne.
The show will begin later this year but Ten has not revealed the date.
“The show is looser than the other mobs’,” Boland said. “There’s scope for an adult conversation. When you take the straitjackets off, interesting things happen.”
Boland said Wake Up was modelled on FM radio shows and that it would rely heavily on social media and viewer interaction.
He described his final years at Channel Seven as “frustrating”, claiming that “no one was willing to take a risk” at Sunrise.
“Sunrise has an average of 14 guests [every day], who are booked the night before,” he said.
“Most of my producers will be working the early morning shift and we won’t be booking as many guests. This is Australia: chances are that some of those guests won’t be that great. We want to give [the hosts] the freedom to chat.”
Ten hopes that Wake Up – in addition to a slew of new local drama, reality, comedy and sport shows – will reverse its mid-year ratings slump, which has seen the network fall into fourth place behind the ABC.
Boland is also creating a late-morning program to be hosted by Ita Buttrose, Joe Hildebrand and others. It will also launch later this year.
Wake Up’s short-lived predecessor Breakfast, hosted by controversial New Zealander Paul Henry, was a critical and commercial flop, rarely drawing more than 50,000 viewers.
Boland said: “I think it was pretty obvious what went wrong with that show … and it was obvious to Channel Ten after 7 o’clock on the first morning.”
In addition to announcing Wake Up, Ten revealed that former Australian Idol co-host Osher Gunsberg – previously known as Andrew G – will host its local version of reality program The Bachelor, to debut later this year.
Steven Bradbury and Alisa Camplin have joined its Winter Olympics commentary team, and former batsman Sir Viv Richards will host the Big Bash League cricket with Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming.
Wake Up is being launched as the established breakfast shows enter their toughest battle in years, with Today now threatening the once-unbeatable Sunrise.
Fewer than 10,000 viewers separate the two rivals, with Sunrise still in front.
It’s a far cry from 2006, when Sunrise was ahead by more than 200,000 viewers. Two years later, its lead halved to 100,000 and it has steadily declined ever since.
While Sunrise retains the national ratings crown, its win comes from its dominance in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. In Sydney and Melbourne, Today is the top-rating breakfast show.
Sunrise co-host Melissa Doyle will be replaced by Samantha Armytage around September, with Doyle to move on to other roles. Some in the industry view this as an attempt to “rejuvenate” Sunrise before the launch of Wake Up.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.