Hilary Barry and Jack Tame tipped to takeover TVNZ's Breakfast

Jack Tame and Hilary Barry are rumoured to be taking over Breakfast at TVNZ.
Jack Tame and Hilary Barry are rumoured to be taking over Breakfast at TVNZ.

The TVNZ rumour-mill is once again in overdrive as news spreads of the impending arrival of former TV3 newsreader Hilary Barry.

Writing for The Spinoff, former NZ Herald editor Tim Murphy claimed Barry was "almost certain to be announced soon" as the new face of Breakfast, alongside TVNZ's US correspondent Jack Tame.

Tame has long been a favourite with TVNZ management and has been a regular fill-in on the Breakfast couch in recent years.

Based in New York, he arrived back in the country this week to fill in for Mike Hosking on Seven Sharp but wouldn't be drawn on the rumours, saying he couldn't comment.

Likewise, a spokesperson for TVNZ would not answer any questions, saying "we're not commenting on the speculation".

However, it's no secret TVNZ has been looking to reboot Breakfast since ratings started sliding earlier this year.

Average monthly ratings. Source: Nielsen
Average monthly ratings. Source: Nielsen

After successfully fending off competition from Paul Henry last year, this year has seen TVNZ's morning viewership decline significantly in the key commercial demographic of 25-54. At the same time, Paul Henry's viewership has seen strong growth.

While November saw Breakfast ratings peak with an average of 58,000 viewers (aged 25-54) per episode, this year has seen that number drop to an average of 39,000 viewers in June.

Meanwhile, Paul Henry's ratings have continued to build, growing from an average of 11,000 viewers (aged 25-54) in April 2015 to 32,000 viewers last month.

But while all eyes are on the presenters in front of the camera, insiders suggest Breakfast also has problems behind-the-scenes.

December saw Breakfast's line up producer Sophie Baird head on maternity leave. Her departure coincides with the softer ratings.

Viewers and media commentators have also picked up on the lack of chemistry between Breakfast hosts Nadine Chalmers-Ross and Rawdon Christie, which regularly results in awkward segues between the pair.

If true, the Barry-Tame rumour would explain why there has been no sign of Breakfast presenter Ali Pugh, who was due to return from maternity leave last month, after originally extending her leave in April.

Just when the new duo could take over remains unclear. Tame has spent much of the year covering the US presidential primaries and is understood to be due back on the campaign trail soon.

He has also been announced as part of the official One News team set to cover the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

It's understood Barry is currently overseas on an extended holiday and will not be back until August.

- NZ Herald

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