'Disrupting the model' of morning talk TV: Canada AM's successor

Fans are still mourning the cancellation of Canada AM, but the publicly abrupt demise of CTV's long-running morning show — and rapid announcement of its replacement — is a Canadian example of a wider shake-up of the morning-show format.

Morning shows likely need to grow social media presence, TV critic says

The Social's Melissa Grelo — seen at right with fellow co-hosts of the CTV daytime chat show (from left) Traci Melchor, Cynthia Loyst and Lainey Lui — is one of the new hosts of Your Morning, which will replace Canada AM. (CTV/Bell Media)

Fans are still mourning the cancellation of Canada AM, but the publicly abrupt demise of CTV's long-running morning show — and rapid announcement of its replacement — is a Canadian example of a wider shake-up of the morning-show format.

Despite being a Canadian TV staple for more than four decades — with many hosts and much success — Canada AM's established, traditional format isn't enough to ensure continued success in today's shifting media climate, according to industry watcher Amber Dowling.

This is a good opportunity to shake up the morning-show format that we're all used to.- Amber Dowling, TV critic

"It was older, an old format. They were doing a great job of that. But it was not ground-breaking. This is a good opportunity to break new ground," Dowling, a freelance TV critic and president of the Television Critics Association, told CBC News on Monday.

"This is a good opportunity to shake up the morning-show format that we're all used to."

CTV announced last Thursday that the veteran morning show would end its 43-year run the next day  a decision met with much sadness and outrage by viewers last weekOn Monday, its replacement was announced: Your Morningset to launch later this summer and featuring a quintet of hosts led by Ben MulroneyAnne-Marie Mediwake and Melissa Grelo

Mulroney is a familiar face to TV viewers as the host of CTV's evening entertainment show eTalk, while Grelo is a co-host and moderator of the network's daytime chat program The Social (both will balance their existing roles with the new show). Meanwhile, Mediwake joins CTV after recently leaving CBC News as co-anchor of the local Toronto evening newscast. 

"These hosts will be breezy and informal but still give that anchor polish, so it's not a complete departure from where the show was," says Lisa Taylor, assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism.

"The show hasn't changed much in decades," she said. "The look, the banter of the show feels really dated. It needs a pretty large-scale revamp to stay relevant."

"The announcements of these new hosts seem to be driven toward a younger audience," added Dowling. 

Importance of social media 

More details of the new program are expected later this week, but on Monday, Randy Lennox, president of entertainment production and broadcasting for Bell Media, said that Your Morning will "pay respect and homage" to Canada AM while also adding "lots of surprises."

"Hopefully, we'll find this to be a great morning show with a very contemporary twist," he told The Canadian Press.

But will the show respect the brand and keep longtime loyal viewers, while also gaining new younger ones?

"I'm willing to guess that the name change won't resonate terribly well with the existing audience. But if CTV is looking to be bolder, to attract an untapped audience, then [the name change] makes perfect sense," said Taylor.

She predicts the success of the show in growing its audience will depend on more than a name change, though.

"We continued to see in Canada AM, all-knowing news information presenters. We don't love that so much anymore," she said. "There's a greater appetite for information from interesting people who will put stuff in context, who are given free rein to give their own perspective. I would dare to be bold enough to suggest that this will be an element to the new show."

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd pose with Jimmy Kimmel during a Back to the Future Day bit in 2015. Shareable social media posts and segments have become key in the competitive late-night environment. (Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube)

Dowling also predicts a greater emphasis on social media — echoing the wave that hit late-night TV several years back and helped usher out stalwarts David Letterman, Jay Leno and Jon Stewart. It's online supremacy through viral videos that Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, James Corden, John Oliver and their peers now vie for nightly.

Taylor echoes that sentiment, saying, "I would certainly predict an [interconnection] between social and the new program. CTV has done this with The Social. It's a strategy they have already invested in."

"I would put money on [Your Morning] being a more social media-driven show," Dowling said. 

"The key for success will be that they're going to need to get shareable moments," she said. "Lots of people don't watch late night, but they do watch and share on social media the next morning." 

Changing landscape

ABC recently fumbled Michael Strahan's full-time move to Good Morning America by blindsiding his daytime talk show co-host Kelly Ripa. (Charles Sykes/Invision/Associated Press)

Canada isn't alone in seeing changes and juggling of the morning show format — itself nearly 65 years old. In recent years, the ultra-competitive American landscape has seen host changes, jockeying for ratings and a cycle of general upheaval. Shows like Good Morning America and Today are important programs that attract significant audiences and advertisers.  

Most recently, ABC fumbled a significant internal move by apparently blindsiding Live host Kelly Ripa with the news that her popular co-host Michael Strahan would be shifting full-time to Good Morning America — a decision that executives hope will help boost the show's flagging ratings. 

Whether Canadian broadcasters are successful in boosting ratings will depend on how much they are willing to change and adapt, Taylor suggests.

"How far can we further disrupt the model? You need to do that to a certain extent," she said. "But future ratings will tell the true tale."

Taylor said this is an uphill battle for the entire industry at the moment.

"It's been a struggle for broadcast overall. They're having a tough time giving up telling people what's happening. In the new world order broadcasters need to get into the business of context."