The Ten Network has axed its Logie-winning mid-morning show The Circle. Network management ordered a staff meeting at 10am today, with speculation suggesting it was to confirm the long-struggling Breakfast would be benched.
Instead, Ten gave its low-rating breakfast show a reprieve, announced a new mid-morning line-up of US entertainment and talk shows, and confirmed The Circle would finish on August 3. Produced by industry veteran Pam Barnes, The Circle was the breakout star of Ten's daytime schedule last year.
Its host, Chrissie Swan, was nominated for the Gold Logie at the TV Week Logie Awards, and it won four of its nominations on the night, including most popular light entertainment program.
Swan did not win the Gold Logie, but took home a Logie for most popular new female talent. But Swan left the show earlier this year for a gig in breakfast radio, citing a desire to spend more time with her family. Since then its ratings have fallen sharply.
Ten chief executive James Warburton said the decision was a financial one. "The decision to cease production of The Circle is unfortunate and was not taken lightly, but tight fiscal control and cost discipline are a core part of our strategy," he said.
Ten will replace it with a new line-up including the US talk show The Talk, hosted by Sara Gilbert and two entertainment shows, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. The new schedule does trim half an hour from Breakfast, and, from August 6, it will run from 6am to 8.30am.
Its present line-up, hosts Paul Henry and Kathryn Robinson and weather presenter Magdalena Roze, will not change. There is persistent speculation that Breakfast has effectively been "parked" until Ten can appoint an executive to relaunch it.
Seven's Adam Boland, who launched Sunrise and The Morning Show successfully into the morning and mid-morning TV markets, is tipped for that role when his contract with Seven expires later this year.
Ten launched Breakfast in the hope of carving itself a slice of the breakfast market, but it has failed to make any impact whatsoever on the two market leaders, Sunrise and Today. It consistently rates fourth in its slot, behind Sunrise, Today and ABC Breakfast.
Ten's decision is likely to surprise many who felt its breakfast show was a more likely contender for the axe.
But among the key factors behind Ten's move are a $1 million contract for Breakfast co-host Paul Henry, which, in effect, makes it more cost-effective for Ten to leave Breakfast on air.
The Circle, while cheaper to produce, is less expensive to dismantle. Axing Breakfast before Henry's contract expires would still burden Ten with the cost of his contract.
Ten's statement this morning thanked Pam Barnes, The Circle's producer, for "her valued contribution to the program and to Ten".
It also thanked The Circle's remaining full-time on-air team, Gorgi Coghlan and Yumi Stynes, for their "hard work and dedication".