With their ratings taking a hit and their trusty host beginning to drop in and out, tensions are running high on the set of breakfast show Today.
While the Channel Nine program controversially claimed the win over rivals Sunrise on Channel Seven late last year, fresh ratings figures reported in The Australian reveal Today has now been beaten a staggering 18 weeks in a row.
The news has put the cast and crew on edge.
‘Having finished 2016 on such a high, this year couldn’t have got off to a worse start for Today,’ an insider reveals.
‘The mood has definitely shifted on set.’
Last year saw Channel Nine’s director of news and current affairs Darren Wick say the network was ‘thrilled’ with the ‘wonderful result’ of toppling their rivals, while host Lisa Wilkinson even became embroiled in a social media war with Sunrise host Sam Armytage over their ratings success.
‘A huge thank you to all our fabulous, loyal viewers who have just made @TheTodayShow the No1 breakfast show in the country,’ Lisa tweeted at the time, before declaring she worked with the ‘best breakfast news team in the country’.
But the tides appear to have turned quickly for the team.
Their celebrations were short- lived, as viewers have been switching back to Sunrise for the past few months.
Adding to the breakfast show’s woes are the off-screen dramas surrounding host Karl Stefanovic, 42, whose conspicuous absence from the main chair last week coincided with a series of scandalous headlines detailing his new relationship with 33-year-old model Jasmine Yarbrough.
The star was once a viewer favourite thanks to his cheeky, family guy image, but bosses at Nine reportedly fear his marriage split from Cassandra Thorburn may be damaging both his image and the Today brand.
‘The network can trace a ratings switch-off in regional Australia to within weeks of Stefanovic’s marriage break-up,’ The Daily Telegraph columnist Annette Sharp wrote recently. ‘Rural mums at home stuffing lunchboxes at 7.30am need to believe Stefanovic is a “nice” stable guy, a family guy. Not the kind of guy who leaves his wife for a bachelor lifestyle and then hooks up with a younger woman.’
While an absent Karl has been snapped flaunting his new relationship, it’s been left up to his co-host Lisa Wilkinson to bravely man the fort, carrying on with her usual onscreen poise amid the turmoil.
While she has fiercely defended her co-star of 10 years in the wake of his marriage breakdown, saying she feels ‘very protective’ of Karl and his family, the pressure is no doubt getting to the formidable journalist, who has previously admitted she fears losing her coveted gig.
‘I come in every day thinking, any day now someone is going to pat me on the shoulder and say: “OK, you’ve had enough fun now, time to pass the baton to the next one,”’ the 57-year-old recently admitted to The Daily Telegraph.
For the full story, see this week’s New Idea – out now.
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