Bleakley and Chiles talk Daybreak 

27 November 2010

Much has been said about ITV1’s Daybreak, the replacement for GMTV which, it has to be said, hasn’t got off to the greatest of starts. None of what’s been said has been said by me as frankly I’m a Today programme listener and not even my natural interest could beat my early morning, groggy inertia and make me put the television on.

However whilst much has been said in the press and by other commentators, not a huge amount as been said by its stars. Until now.

In an interview in today’s Guardian, Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley talk in a rather unexpectedly candid manor that you’d normally expect ITV’s press office to have a complete fit about.

Maybe the press office is. However reading the article, and the anguish, pain and worry comes through. There’s no arrogance, no “I can’t understand why it went wrong – we’re great!” Just two people are a bit upset that things haven’t worked out initially and on how they’ve been portrayed in the media.

The article almost reads as a eulogy, as if the pair are about to be kicked off the show, however it also points out something you won’t see in much of the press because ultimately the press prefer kicking someone whilst they’re down to reporting good news – Daybreak’s ratings have been slowly climbing. Their average is now 800,000 viewers, which beats GMTV’s former average.

If anything it suggests that the problem lies more not with Daybreak more than with ITV’s handling of its introduction.

Over on radio its a well known that if you replace a major presenter on a breakfast show, chances are their first set of ratings will be down on the previous incumbent. People don’t like change – especially in the morning – so it’s all about how you handle that change. Sometimes you’ll get it just right and the ratings will creep back up (or if you’ve got it spot on the ratings will never drop in the first place – Chris Evans put listeners on after he took over from Terry Wogan.) However you have to give it time, let things bed in, tweak what doesn’t work and keep delivering what does.

It’s a lesson that ITV no doubt should have learned and which Chiles comments on in the interview. Daybreak was such a change that really it just needed to be left a little time to bed in to work it all out.

Only the long game will show whether Chiles and Bleakley, and their show, have got what it takes to be a success. In a few years time the initial trauma, bad press and ill feeling may disappear and ITV’s decision to scrap GMTV be vindicated. Such heartfelt interviews may be no longer necessary.

And the lessons of Daybreak also need to be watched by the BBC. BBC Breakfast is due to move to Salford early in 2012 and that’s going to result in a lot of upheaval with staff and presenters having to make difficult choices. The transition to a new (at least partially new) team needs to be handled gently to ensure the winning formula doesn’t lose its top spot for by then Daybreak will hopefully have found its place firmly in the mornings and will no doubt have its eyes on the BBC’s audience…

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