Karl Stefanovic appears to have been given the green light from Nine chief executive Hugh Marks to reclaim his plum hosting role on Today, twelve months after he was sacked from the coveted gig.
According to The Australian, CEO Hugh has endorsed the 45-year-old as ‘having the X-factor to breathe new life’ into the flailing breakfast program amid plunging ratings and allegations of tension between the current hosts.
But there’s one catch: Karl has to take a ‘major’ pay cut in order to oust replacement Deb Knight, who stepped in when he himself was unceremoniously booted in December 2018.
Karl’s pay cut
Hugh is so confident in Karl’s abilities to turn the Today ship around that he’s reportedly willing to invest his own money in bringing the host of the now-axed This Time Next Year firmly back into the Nine fold.
The CEO - who also has his eye on Weekend Today host Allison Langdon to replace Georgie Gardner - will only come to the table on the condition that Karl, too, will also ‘make a sacrifice’ to his existing $2m-a-year contract.
It’s speculated that Karl will have to forgo ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ in order to be reinstalled to his former glory.
If he rejects the offer, Karl will likely serve out the remaining year of his contract as a contributing reporter on 60 Minutes.
Channel Nine tells Yahoo Lifestyle that network is ‘not commenting on these reports’.
Rumours of a return
Rumours of Karl’s proposed return to the Today show in 2020 - alongside network star Allison - began swirling less than a week ago.
According to Julian Evans, who claimed to have a source within Nine, the duo is set to make their debut at the network’s new North Sydney tower next year, with Georgie Gardner shifting over as co-host of Today Extra.
Julian shared the speculation on Twitter on November 1 sending viewers into a frenzy. Even entertainment reporter Peter Ford shared his thoughts on the matter, which could be the “TV story of the year”.
One major hitch in the ‘exclusive’ is the studio isn’t due for completion until second half of next year!! https://t.co/3id3GdwObi— Peter Ford (@mrpford) November 1, 2019
Nine sets it straight
However, Channel Nine was quick to shoot down the validity of the chatter and while they wouldn’t confirm whether or not Karl and Allison would take the reigns of the Today show, they did reveal to Yahoo Lifestyle the network’s new studios wouldn’t be constructed until at least mid next year.
But despite this, Friday wasn’t the first time Karl and Allison were pointed to as the only pair capable of bringing the breakfast show out of its ratings slump.
The reports were first alluded to in The Sunday Telegraph last month, who used 60 Minutes reporter Allison Langdon’s popularity with audiences, and the fact she hosted the network’s 2020 Upfronts earlier this month, as reasons for their speculation.
Similarly, Karl appears to see himself as the show’s saviour.
In fact, the same day of Julian’s tweet, he referred to himself as the network’s ‘lucky charm’ during an interview on radio show Fitzy & Wippa.
Karl was one of several celebs in captain Wippa’s lineup which beat out Fitzy’s team during a friendly match on the lawn of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s residence, Kirribilli House on Thursday.
Today’s once-fresh look
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, each has 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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