Showdown at dawn: #Trending compares SA's morning TV shows

Cape Town - When abruptly canned its morning show Sunrise last month after a decade-long run and replaced it with an outsourced breakfast programme, The Morning Show, the channel didn’t explain the reason behind its decision – but it didn’t need to.

Sunrise had been on air since April 1 2008, when it replaced Morning Edition, which in turn replaced’s first try at breakfast television, The Toasty Show.

Despite the attempts at reinvention, these offerings just weren’t catching on and lagged in ratings as failed to invest in the news resources, production capacity or preppy on-air talent to do a proper news show or, alternatively, an “@home” lifestyle show.

With Sunrise canned, SABC2’s long-running Morning Live and SABC3’s Expresso have netted the bulk of available viewers, with only a small fraction going to satellite pay-TV channels’ live morning programmes.

But now there’s a new kid on the block in the form of’s The Morning Show, which will once again make a play to cash in on viewers and, with them, the ad spend and in-show commercial sponsorships to keep the show going.

#Trending takes a look at what you can look forward to from South Africa’s three leading breakfast programmes.

The Morning Show (DStv 194)
Weekdays, 06:00
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While the SABC moved in-house when it created Morning Live to replace the outsourced AM2Day, went the other way, dumping its in-house breakfast show Sunrise for The Morning Show, which is externally produced by Cheeky Media. I wouldn’t say the move was a wise one.

Judging from The Morning Show’s colours and lighting, it’s clear that’s new offering is targeting Expresso audiences and, with them, Expresso’s sponsors and advertisers. The Morning Show is definitely throwing down the gauntlet with its decidedly “lifestyle” feel and snappy, short segments and variety of presenters.

Unfortunately, this comes across more like a washing powder commercial than a serious offering with its “whiter whites” and “brighter brights” approach to breakfast television. It’s been almost two months since its first episode aired and the show still exudes a high school concert feel as technical issues abound and the presenters try to find their feet.

The worst is when they have bands or people performing on the roof. Because the sun rises earlier in Cape Town, it’s usually pitch black out there and no one thinks to add any lights. You can barely make out what’s going on.

That said, the show’s set is a vast improvement on Sunrise’s boxed-in, submarine-like set, and the collection of presenters, while still learning how to gel together, create a far more dynamic vibe than what a single or duo anchor could accomplish.

While The Morning Show slants towards lifestyle, it has room to experiment with producing great news, newsmaker interviews and “exclusive gets” – a solid way to distinguish itself from the competition.

The programme is clearly skewed towards young adults, but perhaps the addition of an older, more experienced face will add some gravitas to balance out the beauty pageant presentation thus far.

Morning Live
SABC2 (DStv 192)
Weekdays, 06:00

Morning Live, done by SABC news division from inside its Auckland Park headquarters, is the perennial ratings leader when it comes to SA breakfast television. The most newsy of the offerings, it became a bit staid due to the conveyor belt line-up of talking head ministers, government officials and “Today is World Save the Duckbill Platypus Day” spokespeople.

Cue the unexpected yet inspired addition of Sakina Kamwendo of SAfm fame to the show in June, whose smooth and knowledgeable persona is washing over Morning Live like a fresh breeze.

The longtime face of the show remains Leanne Manas, who did damage to her personal brand when she was forced to announce a litany of SABC editorial censorships and other decisions, as well as do pandering interviews with the likes of Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Morning Live had its credibility severely dented, but is now several notches better since June – largely due to shorter inserts, snappier interviews and a wonderful rapport between Kamwendo and Manas.

SABC3 (DStv 193)
Weekdays, 06:00

Produced by Cardova Productions in Seapoint, Cape Town, SABC3’s Expresso is breakfast television’s equivalent of the cool kids’ hang out.

Unlike Morning Live’s focus on the tried and tested news show format, Expresso is a melting pot of lifestyle inserts that range from cooking and exercise demos to celebrity appearances and art exhibitions, which makes it the archetypal “feel-good” production.

Expresso is also much more commercialised and sponsorship-heavy than its newsy sister on SABC2, and almost every segment is tied to a deal of some description. But, while Morning Live is produced and funded in-house at the SABC, Expresso’s producers are tasked with ensuring that the show pays for itself.

Some of the competitive advantages of Expresso are its pacing and atmosphere. Perfect for today’s rushed and distracted viewers, it keeps inserts and interviews short and preppy. On any given day, Expresso runs through a multitude of topics, and hardly any segments last for more than five minutes.

The show’s rich content is paired with the scenic views of the sunrise from the Expresso studio, making it one of the better ways to watch the day start in South Africa.


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