Nine’s desperate ploy to save Today
IT WAS once one of Nine's most successful shows. But after a huge ratings slump and the axing of Karl Stefanovic, Nine is reportedly making a last-ditch attempt to save Today.
The network is said to be eyeing a possible all-female line-up to revive the breakfast TV show, which is in crisis after Stefanovic's sacking, The Australian reports.
Nine is said to be looking at possibly replacing Karl with Deborah Knight or Allison Langdon, teaming them alongside current Today co-host Georgie Gardner.
The show's brand is in tatters after Nine lost Karl and Peter Stefanovic in 24 hours in one of the most dramatic exits in Australian TV history.
Their exits come after months of speculation about their jobs being under threat after the pair were caught bitching about their bosses while talking inside an Uber car.
Sources told The Australian Nine planned to "blow the whole thing up" in a desperate effort to revive Today in the wake of Stefanovic's embattled public image.
The Australian reports that Adelaide newsreader Brenton Ragless is also a contender to fill Stefanovic's job, after he was dramatically sacked from the show yesterday.
The show has a long way to climb back up to being a serious ratings contender in the breakfast TV war after Karl's marriage breakdown and new relationship with Jasmine Yarbrough turned viewers away.
The rest of the Today Show's hosts including Tim Gilbert, and Wilkins are all reported to be under review as Nine tries to save the program.
HOW KARL'S IMAGE IMPLODED
Karl Stefanovic was once Nine's golden boy - a typical knockabout Aussie bloke, relatable family man and respected TV news reporter.
That image changed dramatically in 2016 when Stefanovic ended his 21-year marriage to Cassandra Thorburn - the mother of his three children.
Stefanovic's over-the-top, showy wedding to shoe designer Jasmine Yarbrough, 34, in Cabo San Lucas this month did nothing to repair his reputation, and he has now lost his plum role as co-host of Today.
"Nine and Karl Stefanovic have agreed it is time for him to step off the Today Show. Karl remains on contract with the network," Nine's director of news and current affairs, Darren Wick, said in a statement today.
As Nine announced his dramatic departure, Stefanovic, who is believed to still be on his honeymoon with Yarbrough, said he had been through a "tough time".
"For the last 14 years I've co-hosted the best show on television," Stefanovic said in a statement.
"I can't thank Nine enough for the opportunity. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be good enough to host this grand show for so long.
"Thanks to our viewers mostly, you are what matters most. It's been a tough time. Thanks for hanging in there."
KARL'S IMAGE IN CRISIS
So where did it all go wrong for Stefanovic? After meeting Yarbrough, there were noticeable changes to Stefanovic's dress sense, social circle and, most disastrously for Today's ratings, his public image.
Viewers turned off in droves, as Stefanovic's brand became tainted by the appearance of a midlife crisis.
His style went from daggy jeans, knits and TV wardrobe shirts and trousers, to sleek Tom Ford suits (as worn to the Logies this year).
His social circle changed to include a much younger crowd - Australian model Jordan Barrett and British socialite Louise Roe.
Suddenly, Stefanovic was sitting front row with Yarbrough, who is the owner of high-end shoe brand Mara & Mine, at David Jones' fashion shows, flaunting PDA, and uploading couple-selfies to Instagram.
His weight fluctuated from a "dad bod" to trim and buff, and he was often photographed on his way to the gym, including as recently as late November in the lead-up to their resort wedding at One & Only Palmilla.
Stefanovic and Yarbrough's romance - and 10-year age gap - raised eyebrows after Stefanovic's messy breakup from Thorburn after 21 years of marriage.
The Nine star was said to have "blindsided" his ex by ending their marriage in 2016, and then five months later hooked up with Yarbrough in a very public manner.
They went public with their romance when they were photographed taking selfies on board a luxury boat on Sydney Harbour in February 2017.
The problems facing brand Karl Stefanovic in 2018 have been well-documented.
Even Nine chief executive Hugh Marks acknowledged Stefanovic's "tough" year.
"Karl has had a tough year, but I have every confidence that he can get back to what he is really good at and re-establish that connection with the audience," Marks told News Corp Australia last month.
"If the audience sees him really working hard and treating them very seriously and delivering on what he can do, well then he can re-establish that connection. He is a fantastic broadcaster."
Stefanovic is one of the highest-paid stars on Australian TV and his net worth is rumoured to be $10 million.
His annual salary at Nine's Today is reportedly $2 million and he is paid substantial bonuses, which are been estimated to put his annual earnings at close to $3 million.
Reports have suggested Stefanovic has engaged an image consultant - brand marketer Mitch Catlin, who was instrumental in "making" the early career of Jennifer Hawkins - to overhaul his standing in the public eye.
This has so-far involved secret meetings to repair his personal brand.
Stefanovic has three children with ex-wife Thorburn: sons Jackson, 18, and River, 11, and daughter Ava, 12.
It had been previously reported that Jackson was estranged from Stefanovic and even ditched his surname to take on his mother's (on social media, he is known as "Jackson Thorburn").
Despite suggestions he may not attend the wedding, Stefanovic's eldest son was seen arriving with the Stefanovic entourage in Cabo this week.
The new Karl's style is a far cry from the man who famously wore the same navy suit for a year on Today in 2014 (only changing the tie and shirt), as part of an experiment to highlight sexism on TV.
"I've worn the same suit on air for a year - except for a couple of times because of circumstance - to make a point," Stefanovic said at the time.
"I'm judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour - on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they're wearing or how their hair is … that's [what I wanted to test]."
Stefanovic's Today co-star Richard Wilkins, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, PR queen Roxy Jacenko and British socialite Louise Rose attended the star couple's wedding on December 8.