Today’s loss is TEN’s gain

Only a week ago a media report suggested Nine was hatching a plan to get Lisa Wilkinson nominated for a Gold Logie. Such is her versatility and likeability on Today that it beggars belief she has never been nominated in the past.

Ironically, she could potentially find herself nominated for The Project and not Today, after bombshell news she was jumping ship and joining Network TEN.

The sudden exit of Wilkinson from Today is a big loss to Nine, announced just days afterthe network Upfronts (at which she did not attend). While no talent is irreplaceable, Wilkinson is as good as they come.

Execs at Nine well remember the revolving door of female hosts who were tried and tested alongside Karl Stefanovic prior to her being poached from Weekend Sunrise: Sarah Murdoch, Kellie Connolly, and of course, the famed “boning” of Jessica Rowe.

The pairing of Wilkinson with Stefanovic has worked, with the seasoned media performer bringing gravitas to Karl’s frequent jester antics. Whether handling breaking news or serving up a tough political interview, she has helped Today bring the fight to the dominant Sunrise in the fierce morning TV battle. And she has been the show’s constant during torrid headlines and viewer reactions directed at her co-host (and on occasions even his defender).

There is nowhere to hide in Breakfast TV. With hours of Live TV and a dizzying array of news topics, it requires more than just chemistry and a thick skin. The moment co-hosts don’t get along, viewers can smell it a mile off and media has a field day with it. All of that is potentially now ahead for Nine -change should be avoided at all costs.

Off-screen Wilkinson has championed the role of women in the media, notably delivering the Andrew Olle Media Lecture where she took aim at the industry for treating women differently to men.

“I despair that every time a female journalist is profiled in the press, her age is usually mentioned by the second paragraph, as if it is a measure of her sexual currency and just how long it will be, before it expires,” she said.

“And yet, does anyone here know or care how old Kerry O’Brien, Kochie, Tony Jones, Hugh Riminton, Ray Martin, Peter Overton or Laurie Oakes are? They are all brilliant at what they do, and the rule of thumb is that the more experienced they are, the better they are at their jobs. So why, so often, doesn’t that same measure apply to women?”

That was 4 years ago.

So it comes as little surprise, if we are to believe media reports, that she has now taken a stand over an apparent gender pay inequity with her male co-host. Nine maintains Stefanovic has extra duties including 60 Minutes and current affairs which means the roles are not equal.

Nevertheless, her hiring is a coup for TEN, sorely in need of some good news right now.

Wilkinson will appear on The Project alongside Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar (it’s unclear how many episodes per week given the show is filmed in Melbourne) and host the Sydney-based edition of The Sunday Project.

TEN Chief Content Officer, Beverley McGarvey, said: “Lisa Wilkinson is one of the most respected journalists and television presenters in Australia and we are thrilled that she has agreed to join Network TEN’s fantastic stable of on-air talent.

“In a career that has spanned magazines, radio, television and digital media, Lisa has established her credentials as a leading figure in the Australian media industry. She has a great connection to the Australian public and a reputation that is second to none. We are proud that she has agreed to join the acclaimed team at The Project and The Sunday Project.”

The new challenge means no more early mornings for Wilkinson (and Christmas at home, given she also co-hosted Carols by Candlelight). Meanwhile it’s a gift too for Sunrise, with Nine acknowledging Today will now head in a new direction.

Last night Wilkinson thanked her co-hosts, producers, crew and Today viewers “who have been so supportive and incredibly loyal to me over the last decade. I can never thank you enough and I look forward to seeing you soon.”

26 Comments:

  1. I don’t buy the argument that Karl gets paid more because he does other stuff for Nine. He normally take time off Today to do it, leaving Lisa to do the hard Breakfast shift slog. My guess is that she is glad to be out of there. The only one that can replace her is Rebecca Madden. She has worked at Sunrise and can handle the blokey world at Nine better than most. It would work out well for The Footy Show as Eddie works best as a solo host. But would she want it?

  2. IIRC, Lisa has previously guest hosted The Project? Might’ve been a few years ago, but she definitely brought gravitas to the role. Wonder if 10 will do not a breakfast show, but a 60 Minutes/Sunday Night style show? Her and Sandra Sully would be a great fit for that.

  3. Surely TEN don’t have the $$ to pay what Today were offering which makes you wonder if her jumping ship was not all about the money but also other opportunities that perhaps TEN were willing to give her.

  4. Secret Squïrrel

    If reports of Ten/CBS paying her $2M pa are correct, they won’t just be getting her to do a few nights a week on The Project.

    “I despair that every time a female journalist is profiled in the press, her age is usually mentioned by the second paragraph, as if it is a measure of her sexual currency and just how long it will be, before it expires,” said the attractive 57 year old.
    Fixed that for ya! 😉

  5. Losing Lisa is a massive loss to Today. I rarely watch commercial breakfast tv but if I have it on it’s on today because of Lisa. She is amazing and the chemistry between Lisa and Karl was the better pairing of the two commercial breaky shows.
    That said, I watch The Project far more frequently and can’t wait to see Lisa pop up on Ch 10. Massive gain!

  6. Is Lisa worth 2 million without Karl ? The jury’s out. Is Karl worth 2 million without Lisa. The Verdict proved he’s not. This time next year’s format would be a winner with or with out Karl. Whatever, it will still be Sunrise for me, now especially so.

  7. I love it how the media go on about bank and electricity bosses being over paid and yet Lisa and Karl who read from autocue, laugh non stop and give away prizes are paid millions, don’t forget this time last year the Today show was rating over 300,000 viewers now it is consistently in the 250-275,000 viewer range so perhaps it is time 9 took Today in a different direction. Imagine all the extra children’s tv shows that could be made each year creating jobs for youth in drama if each of these tv show hosts were paid $100k or $200k per annum instead of $2 million.

  8. I would guess Lisa Wilkinson on The Project Sunday to Wednesday? (Either staying in Melbourne a few nights a week or flying each day).

    They have to focus on Lisa, as she’s arguably a bigger star than Carrie Bickmore (given her heritage), as well as her new pay packet.

    Can’t wait! Go Lisa 🙂

  9. Reading this article reminds me of just how much “handling” she had to do for Karl when he got up to his antics. Anyone would get sick of that eventually.

    • Nine’s attitude has long apparently been “dont worry, we can buy credibility”. And it works for them, for certain values of ‘credibility’…

      “Execs at Nine well remember the revolving door of female hosts who were tried and tested alongside Karl Stefanovic” – apparently not well enough.

  10. Wow! That’s big news. She’ll be missed on the Today Show. I wish her all the best. Who’ll co-host along with Karl now? The carols will be different this year.

  11. Seems the CBS America tentacles are already at play in Australia’s tv landscape. CBS have always prided themselves on fostering their on air talent. So the possibility of further defections from 7 or 9 on air talent can not be ruled out. A few commentators have mentioned that a CBS takeover of TEN will cause some headaches st NEC and SWM . Looks this is the start. Great veiwing !

  12. Hard to see her confined to just The Project.
    I’d say her own primetime show is coming, and perhaps even a Ten breakfast show.
    Big money to be made in the AM if Ten can finally get it right

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