It’s official: after intense speculation, it’s finally been confirmed that former Today show host Karl Stefanovic will reclaim his plum role on Channel Nine’s morning TV program in 2020.
In a statement shared with Yahoo Lifestyle on Saturday, the 45-year-old admitted he never expected to return to what he described as ‘the best live job in Australia’ - despite the ‘enormous pressures’ and ‘pitfalls’.
“Going back to the Today Show is not something that I thought would come up again. I thought my time was up but then when I was sounded out about it, it got me thinking. It's a big job with enormous pressures and I know only too well some of those pitfalls, but it is also without question the best live job in Australia,” he said.
Karl added that while he’s ‘loved’ working as a reporter on 60 Minutes, he ‘missed’ his former role in live TV and considered it the ‘best way’ to use his skills.
Allison joins Today
It was also revealed that Weekend Today’s Allison Langdon will join ‘unpredictable’ Karl as a new co-host next year.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead but I can tell you one thing, it's not going to be boring! I love the unpredictability of live TV… and Karl,” Allison said in a statement supplied by Nine.
“Wind him up and let him go! I'm sure we'll butt heads, but we'll do it with a smile on our face. I just want to help our viewers get their day off to a good, fun start,” she added.
Karl said he was looking forward to teaming up with ‘confident, capable’ Allison to ‘fight’ to re-energise what is currently a flailing format with record-low viewership.
“The show and the audience make me feel alive. I'm up for the fight and I want to fight for our audience. Ally is her own confident, capable woman and I will be there to help her any step of the way but we are equals in this fight and I feel confident in our partnership,” he said.
“We're both good journalists and we both love a laugh,” he added.
Deb and Georgie out
Karl and Allison’s appointment will see existing hosts Georgie Gardner, 49, and Deborah Knight get the boot, with Georgie admitting that the decision left her ‘disappointed’.
“I was consulted two weeks ago about the future direction of the Today Show, and naturally I'm disappointed with the outcome,” she told 9 Now.
Georgie, who along with Deb had been hosting the show since January 2019 after Karl’s shock axing, said she was ‘very proud’ to have been one half of the first female hosting duo in Australian breakfast television.
She added that while her nine-year tenure with the program had ‘at times been cruel’ she was departing with ‘fond memories’ and planned to return to her ‘first love’, news.
In a statement supplied to Yahoo Lifestyle, Nine’s director of news Darren Wick admitted that the female hosting duo was a ‘bold decision’ that ‘regrettably [...] has not worked’.
Deb will reportedly remain with the network and is expected to be in the co-host chair on Monday morning however Georgie will not appear.
It’s said that remaining Today’s entertainment reporters Richard Wilkins and Brooke Boney will stay with the show while newsreader Tom Steinfort may move to 60 Minutes.
The full line up of Today in 2020 ‘will be announced in due course’ with Karl and Allison ‘due to start in early January,’ according to SMH.
The pair will reportedly be based at the existing Nine studios before relocating to the new, multimillion-dollar North Sydney location next year.
Rumours are true
The day before the Karl and Allison’s official reveal, rumours about Today’s future reached fever pitch when a TV insider predicted the show’s only road to success would be through a ‘complete format change’.
Former Studio 10 executive producer Robert McKnight made the suggestion on his site on TV Blackbox, tipping season pros Karl and Allison to lead a US-style opinion-charged program from 6:30am instead of the present start time of 5am.
“Producers have a chance to go in a different direction and engage viewers who have given up on the format,” he wrote.
At that stage, however, Channel Nine had yet to announce any firm direction for the show and maintained their ‘no comment’ response.
Mr McKnight’s theory came after a smiley Karl was spotted suited up for a suspected meeting at Nine’s Willoughby headquarters on Thursday.
That same morning, talk emerged that the controversial TV personality would have to ‘sacrifice’ some of his current $2m a year paycheck to reclaim his top spot at Today.
And back in October, Allison was tipped to join the show due to her popularity with audiences, and the fact she hosted the network’s 2020 Upfronts.
The mother-of-two was out of the running for a role in the show’s initial line-up switch earlier this year as she was heavily pregnant with daughter Scout at the time.
Today’s radical casting switch-up earlier this year saw Tom Steinfort take over from Sylvia Jeffreys as newsreader, while Deb Knight stepped into Karl’s hosting shoes and Brooke Boney joined as entertainment reporter.
But despite the fresh line up’s initial promise, they’ve failed to resonate with audiences reaching its year-long plateau on September 23 when the program attracted just 169,000 metro viewers.
And last Friday, viewership sank to an all-time low of 155,000 in the five capital cities.
Additional reporting by Holly Hales.
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