The first – and longest-running – national breakfast/morning show on television is Today, which set the tone for the genre and premiered on 14 January 1952, on NBC in the United States. For the next 60 years, Today was the #1 morning program in the ratings for the vast majority of its run and since its start, many other television stations and networks around the world have followed NBC's lead, copying that program's successful format.
Breakfast television programs are geared toward popular and demographic appeal. The first half of a morning program is typically targeted at those preparing to commute to work with a focus on hard news segments; often featuring updates on major stories that occurred overnight or during the previous day, political news and interviews, reports on business and sport-related headlines, weather forecasts (either on a national or regional basis), and traffic reports (generally common with locally produced morning shows on terrestrial television stations serving more densely populated cities). During the early morning hours (generally before 10:00 a.m. local time), local anchors will mention the current time – sometimes, along with the current temperature – in various spots during the newscast, while national anchors will mention current time as "xx" minutes after the hour. Later in the program, segments will typically begin to target a dominantly female demographic with a focus on "soft news", such as human-interest, lifestyle and entertainment stories. Many local or regional morning shows feature field reports highlighting local events and/or businesses, in addition to those involving stories that occurred during the overnight or expected to happen in the coming day.
Morning programs that air across national networks may offer a break for local stations or affiliates to air a brief news update segment during the show, which typically consists of a recap of major local news headlines, along with weather and, in some areas, traffic reports. In the United States, some morning shows also allow local affiliates to incorporate a short local forecast into a national weather segment – a list of forecasts for major U.S. cities are typically shown on affiliates which do not produce such a "cut-in" segment.
The first morning news program was Three To Get Ready, a local production hosted by comedianErnie Kovacs that aired on WPTZ (now KYW-TV) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1950 to 1952. Although the program (named after WPTZ's frequency of channel 3) was mostly entertainment-oriented, the program did feature some news and weather segments. Its success prompted NBC to look at producing something similar on a national basis. Following the lead of NBC's Today as the first morning news program to be aired nationally, many other broadcast stations and television networks around the world followed and copied that program's enormously successful format with news, lifestyle features, and personality.
CBS has had a seemingly endless rotation of failed morning news shows. Though it initially tried to mimic Today when it debuted a morning show in a two-hour format in 1954, the show was reduced to one hour within a year in order to make room for the new children's television series Captain Kangaroo. The network abandoned the morning show in 1957. From the late 1960s throughout the 1970s, the CBS Morning News aired as a straight one-hour morning newscast that had a high rate of turnover among its anchors. In January 1979, the network launched the innovative "___day Morning" series, which focused more on lifestyle and feature reports; this format, however, was relegated exclusively to Sundays after two years, and still airs under the title CBS News Sunday Morning. It was not until 1980 that Captain Kangaroo ended its run on weekdays (before ending altogether in 1982), allowing CBS to expand its morning show to a full two hours. However, the high rate of turnover among anchors returned. An ill-fated comedic revamp of the show, The Morning Program, debuted in 1987. After that, however, came This Morning, which has so far had the longest run of any of CBS' morning show attempts. This Morning was eventually cancelled 11 years later, being replaced by The Early Show in 1999; The Early Show, in turn, ceded to the new version of CBS This Morning (this time featuring a format focused more on hard news and interviews, excising lifestyle and infotainement segments) in January 2012.
ABC was a latecomer to the morning show competition. Instead of carrying a national show, it instead adopted the AM franchise introduced by many of its local stations in 1970. KABC-TV's AM Los Angeles launched the national career of Regis Philbin and was a direct predecessor to his syndicated talk show Live!AM Chicago on WLS-TV would later evolve into The Oprah Winfrey Show. The Morning Exchange on WEWS was Cleveland's entry into the franchise; with its light format, ABC (after a brief but failed effort to launch the Los Angeles version nationally as AM America) launched a national program based closely on the format of The Morning Exchange in November 1975 under the title Good Morning America. GMA has traditionally run in second place (ahead of CBS but behind Today), but has surpassed Today in the ratings a few times in its history (first in the early 1990s and again regularly since 2012). Since the 1980s, Live! (now hosted by Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan) has been produced and distributed by ABC's syndication arm, primarily for ABC stations (although not exclusively, as it is carried on stations affiliated with other networks), but produced by ABC's New York City owned-and-operated station, WABC-TV.
Entertainment channels such as VH1 and E! have also aired morning shows (such as Big Morning Buzz Live and That Morning Show). NBCSN (as NBC Sports Network) briefly aired a highlight-intensive morning show, The 'Lights, with virtually no conversation (or even any on-camera anchor) and consisting only of highlights and scores of daytime and evening sporting events that occurred the previous day (NBCSN later abandoned this approach in favor of airing a replay of a sporting event it telecast the previous night in its entirety). ESPN's morning programming is branded, like all of its news programs, as SportsCenter.
Local television stations began producing their own morning shows in the 1970s, though more traditional newscasts began taking hold (mainly on stations that maintain their own news departments) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These programs began as half-hour or one-hour local newscasts that aired immediately before the national shows. However, since that time, they have slowly expanded, either by pushing an earlier start time or by adding additional hours on other stations that are owned, managed or which outsource their local news content to that station, thereby competing with the network shows. Similarly, following the launch of Fox in the late 1980s, many news-producing stations affiliated with major networks not among the traditional "Big Three" or which operate as independent stations began producing morning newscasts that compete in part with national counterparts in part or the entirety of the 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. time period; by the late 2000s, these stations began to expand their morning shows into the 9:00 a.m. hour (where they normally compete with syndicated programs on ABC and CBS stations, and the third hour of Today on NBC stations).
Beginning in the early 2010s, stations began experimenting with 4:30 a.m., and even 4:00 a.m. newscasts in some major markets (and even gradually expanding into mid-size and some smaller markets), pushing local news further into what traditionally is known as an overnight graveyard slot. Some local morning newscasts, which formerly had both softer "morning" musical and graphical packages and lighter news, now resemble their later-day counterparts with hard news coverage of overnight events. Some locally produced morning shows that utilize a mainly infotainment format still exist, most prominently among some large and mid-market stations owned by the E. W. Scripps Company (which inherited the Morning Blend format originated in 2006 by the Journal Broadcast Group following its 2015 acquisition of that company's stations) and the Gannett Company (which inherited many of the local talk/lifestyle shows originated by the Belo Corporation – such as Good Morning Texas on Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA – prior to its 2014 acquisition of the group), and often serving as lead-outs of national network morning shows.
In the United Kingdom, after a six-week trial-run on the regional ITV station Yorkshire Television, the Independent Broadcasting Authority considered breakfast television so important that it created an entire franchise for the genre, becoming the only national ITV franchise other than news service ITN. This franchise was awarded to TV-am, a breakfast-television station. However, launch delays for TV-am allowed the BBC to be able to launch its own morning program, Breakfast Time on 17 January 1983. TV-am, with Good Morning Britain as its flagship program, launched just two weeks later on 1 February. TV-am struggled at first because of a format that was considered to be stodgy and formal compared to the more relaxed magazine style of the BBC's Breakfast Time, and a reliance on advertising income from a timeslot during which people were not accustomed to watching television. However, it eventually flourished only to lose its license in 1993, after being outbid by GMTV.
In 2010, ITV plc acquired a 25% stake in GMTV that The Walt Disney Company had owned, gaining full control of the station. In September 2010, the full legal name was changed from "GMTV Limited" to "ITV Breakfast Limited", with GMTV closing on 3 September and Daybreak and Lorraine launching on 6 September 2010. ITV experienced major trouble with the slot as well; Daybreak was eventually cancelled in 2014 due to low ratings and was replaced by Good Morning Britain on 28 April 2014. Ratings for the new show, while still in its early existence, have been poor.
Local Global Television Network stations CICT-DT (Calgary), CITV-DT (Edmonton) and CHAN-DT (Vancouver) produce their own local morning newscasts under the Morning News title on weekdays 5:00–9:00 a.m.
CICT-DT and CITV-DT each air Saturday morning newscasts from 8:00–10:00 a.m., and CHAN-DT from 7:00–10:00 a.m.
CHAN-DT airs a Sunday morning newscast from 7:00–10:00 a.m.
CKMI-DT (Montreal) previously aired a weekday morning newscast under the title Global News Morning until its cancellation in February 2008; the program was relaunched under The Morning Show brand in 2013
An earlier variant is A.M. (Region) (such as with AM Buffalo on WKBW-TV in Buffalo, New York), which was later adapted by ABC for AM America, a short-lived morning show that aired on the network for eleven months in 1975 before it chose to adapt Cleveland affiliate WEWS' local program The Morning Exchange into the future national format for Good Morning America.
[Station Calls/Branding] This Morning – used primarily on CBS owned-and-operated stations and affiliates (such as CBS 2 News This Morning on WCBS-TV in New York City). It has been used by CBS stations for their newscasts since prior to the 1999 cancellation of the first incarnation of CBS This Morning; the name and format has also been sporadically used on non-CBS affiliates. Some CBS stations renamed their program to The [Branding/Calls] Early Show to match the national title of CBS's 1999–2012 morning program.
Today in [Region] or [Branding/Calls] Today – used by NBC affiliates to complement Today (such as Today in Central New York on WSTM-TV in Syracuse, New York); Fox affiliate WSVN in Miami, Florida brands its morning newscast Today in Florida, that station has used the title since 1988 when it was an NBC affiliate, even after the morning newscast on the market's NBC O&O WTVJ began to use the similar title Today in South Florida.
Wake Up – also used primarily on CBS affiliates, often with the city name after it (such as Wake Up Rochester on WROC-TV in Rochester, New York). In the example of WITI's Fox 6 WakeUp News noted above, that station has used the title since 1992 when it was a CBS affiliate, with the program adapting to the Fox local morning format after 1995.