ITV have announced that BBC 'golden-boy' Aled Jones is to be the new co-presenter of flagging breakfast show, Daybreak. Joining him is ITV and breakfast favourite Lorraine Kelly - an old hand on the sofa and a huge favourite with mums up and down the country. While the choice of 'safe hands' Lorraine comes as no major surprise, the addition of Aled Jones has left many gobsmacked.
Not me. While initially sceptical, I'd say hiring Jones is a bit of a master-stroke for ITV. Okay, he has zero political clout and he is no journalist, but what he does have is personality, wholesomeness and a face that is almost made for daytime/breakfast TV.
Breakfast telly has changed massively since the days of David Frost and Anna Ford, when the emphasis was much more on political and news content. These days, however, viewers' appetites have changed - lifestyle features, celebrity interviews and competitions prove very watchable to a morning audience who simply want to eat their cornflakes and head out the door as stress-free as possible.
BBC Breakfast with their enviable viewing figures (seven million daily) have developed a cleverly balanced formula for the British public. ITV know they can't really compete with a copycat version of their rival's show and have, I suspect, decided to go 'populist' and much more celeb and lifestyle focused with the next incarnation of Daybreak - leaving BBC Breakfast to do what they are very good at - news combined with lifestyle features... but not saturated by them.
The new Terry Wogan?
Aled Jones is incredibly well-loved and has been a presence on our screens since he was a child star and international chorister. Who cannot remember Walking in the Air and his cherubic, angelic little face, crooked teeth and sensible hair-cut?
As presenter of BBC classics such as Songs of Praise and Escape to the Country, the Beeb must be a little concerned at the loss of his presence... and ITV's master-plan at snapping him up. With his popularity on BBC Radio 2 and 3, his lilting Welsh accent and easy charm, he is a grand contender to fill the boots of broadcast legend Terry Wogan - which makes him HOT property on TV and radio.
Indeed, both Jones and Wogan have openly expressed their mutual admiration for each other - with Jones describing 'our Tez' as as a huge support or, as Aled puts it, "he's my illegitimate father". Both are warm, down-to-earth, self-deprecating and have great humour. Like Wogan, Jones is not impressed by stardom and would always put his family firmly before fame.
However, Jeremy Paxman Jones is not! But at breakfast time, television viewers don't necessarily want serious political analysis anyway. Rather, family audiences gravitate towards presenters who have a warmth, a 'human touch', a wide appeal and an ability to bring the 'fluffy' stuff - while delivering news stories without too much heavy analysis. Aled Jones undoubtedly can handle this. He's a bright chap, educated and having been in the public eye since a child, he is already a household name - viewers will instantly feel they know him.
We may mock his choirboy credentials but the fact that he's a very successful recording and touring performer means he has great insight in to the world of showbusiness, TV and performance (and has a lot of celebrity friends who'll delight at joining him and Lorraine on the sofa, I bet).
However, while Jones may have the charm of say, the brilliant Eamonn Holmes, he is simply not as accomplished in terms of journalistic flair. Holmes' years and experience as a credible journalist and broadcaster afford him the skill and versatility to interview a top politiciian and then a single-mum from Croydon. Will Aled Jones be able to handle that?
Who knows? What we do know is that his years on Songs of Praise and others have developed him in to a highly skilled broadcaster and he has interviewed top members of the Church, religious figures and dignitaries, as well as members of the public too, who respond brilliantly to his genuine and personable nature.
In time, he could prove to be a real 'house-wife's favourite'. Whatever the case, presenting Daybreak is a good move for Jones and will do his career no harm at all.
I'm told that Jones and Kelly are good pals and already have a superb chemistry and really bounce off each other - cracking jokes and gently teasing each other. Having a Welshman and a Scotswoman on the sofa is going to go down well with viewers across the UK, who traditionally appreciate regional accents - especially Scottish, Irish and Welsh.
This Celtic connection could be just the ticket for Daybreak, which has totally flopped under previous hosts. BBC Breakfast regularly attracts seven million viewers - totally demolishing Daybreak's sliding audience, which at one point dropped as low as 600,000.
I'm also liking the fact that Lorraine Kelly is the more senior host now. It's refreshing that a female presenter will be the immediate 'face' of breakfast TV on the channel. She's always been under-utilised on ITV - despite being hugely popular with the public and having her own national newspaper column. An accomplished journalist, she has 30 years breakfast TV experience and connects with viewers of all ages.
Overall, the new hosts of Daybreak should be good news for the viewers. They may well also prove to be good news for ITV too, who will undoubtedly see some much needed advertising increase in coming months, thanks to what is likely to be a winning formula, finally, on the sofa. Watch this space...