Megastars could replace MasterChef judges
THE Golden Goose has been cooked, with MasterChef's original judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and beleaguered chef, George Calombaris negotiating themselves out of a job on Ten.
Six months after starting negotiations for a new deal in which they reportedly demanded a 40 per cent pay increase and a slice of the international profits of the show, the trio are now believed to be eyeing a multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix or Amazon Prime to get them back on the box.
Forming their own production company, GGM Pty Ltd and selling themselves to Ten as a package deal made talks "difficult," Ten's chief executive Paul Anderson told News Corp Australia - denying the network had sought to dump Calombaris after his wage theft shame.
Preston, Mehigan and especially Calombaris stayed off the radar and did not return calls when the news broke, but are understood to have wanted more time off to pursue other projects, while almost doubling their TV earnings, estimated currently at around $400,000 to $600,000 per judge each season.
Mr Anderson said the network was committed to "another 10 years of MasterChef, so we needed to look at this with a long-term outlook. We can't be taking a one-year view on shows like this and paying over the odds.
While thanking the judges for their work on the series, he said their departure was seen "as a real opportunity" to "refresh."
This year's ratings on the Logie-winning reality series "have been down after a really good year last year," Mr Anderson said.
"What this does … is give us a real chance to make some changes and we've got some great ideas for next year."
As Australia's most popular cooking show crowned its latest winner, Larissa Takchi, the Ten boss confirmed it would now look to sign some of the show's favourites, Curtis Stone, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay as replacement judges.
He added: "there's a long list of people who are keen to be part of the franchise, so we've got all that in our favour."
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Thank you so very much for supporting @masterchefau over the last 11 years. We have loved every single moment. It is however with a heavy heart that I can confirm that season 11 was our last. We were really keen to continue but we were unable to agree to all terms for the new contract. We have enjoyed 11 wonderful years on Masterchef Australia with Network Ten, and I want to take this opportunity to thank Ten for this amazing opportunity and for Network Ten’s backing of this very special show. We have met some beautiful people, discovered and guided some of the brightest up-and-comers in the Australian food scene, worked with the best chefs in the world in front of the camera, and with the TV industry’s finest professionals behind the scenes. And of course, we three judges have formed a lifelong friendship that will live on far beyond the show. I want to take this opportunity to thank you and everyone who has shared our amazing journey with us - especially all those fantastic contestants. I look forward to sharing many more adventures with you in the future. And finally I wish the new judges all the best with the show that we love so much. Thank you all. I don’t want to take any gloss off tonight’s well deserved winner so I will not be making any further comment. Love Matt.
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It all comes down to this! Tonight the ultimate service challenge for the @masterchefau finale - who will come out on top? Tessa, Simon or Larissa? All three are worthy finalists and I am excited to not have to cook tonight, instead I am looking forward to tasting some beautiful dishes as a lucky guest in the MC kitchen. Best of luck to all three contestants in the greatest cooking show of all #masterchefau @channel10au
While those names won't come cheap, Mr Anderson said the network would not skimp in delivering the same quality production.
"This is a show that runs for the best part of four months of the year, it's the backbone of our schedule. It's not a show, you can tell by the production values, that has ever been done cheaply and won't be done in the future," he said.
While hard-balling Ten over their value to the show, Calombaris told News Corp earlier this year the recipe for its success was the talent of the contestants and loyalty of viewers.
"It's not just about how the three of us perform at the top of the room, it's our contestants, it's the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes and the consumers, the people who watch the show. Without them, we're nothing."
Endemol Shine, which produces a number of shows for Ten including Survivor and Gogglebox, has sold the Australian series to 36 markets, including India, Indonesia and the UK, but is unlikely to risk its relationship with Ten to keep working with Preston, Mehigan and Calombaris on the show overseas.
Meanwhile, a media report which was published midway through negotiations linking the trio to streaming services Netflix and Amazon was seen by Ten as a deliberate "plant" by their management to scare out a $1 million-plus payday.
The global TV platforms have made it clear they are keen to move into the competitive reality space and Preston, Mehigan and Calombaris would be hoping to find a similar format they could front for an international audience.
But industry insiders have warned the former judges they could burn their brand in the same way the one-time Top Gear hosts - Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May - have tanked since moving to Amazon Prime.
After 11 sensational seasons, we bid a fond farewell to our judges - Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. Thank you for being a part of this remarkable #MasterChefAU legacy and helping make the culinary dreams of everyday home cooks come true! pic.twitter.com/uG0A3ec8jI— #MasterChefAU (@masterchefau) July 23, 2019