Today host and (now former) face of Channel Nine, Lisa Wilkinson, has spectacularly quit the network to join rival Ten on a salary reported to being over $2 million a year.
In what can only be described as a PR disaster for Nine and a serious coup for the embattled Ten Network, the 57-year-old Wilkinson will join the network in 2018 in an editorial role and co-host of The Project.
Reports are Wilkinson’s contract negotiations were the reason for her quitting with revelations she was on half the salary of Today co-host Karl Stefanovic who was said to take home a cool $2 million a year. Nine apparently offered $1.8 million but the damage was done and Wilkinson signed with Ten.
What damage Wilkinson’s defection has on the resurgent Nine is yet to be seen. However, for a network that unashamedly courts grocery buying mums then it won’t be a good look at all. The race is now on to fill Wilkinson’s Today spot with Slyvia Jeffreys (Karl’s sister-in-law) believed to be the frontrunner.
Nine has also argued that Stefanovic also did a lot more at the network, hosting This Time Next Year, as an example, hence the higher pay packet. And it will be interesting to see if any mud sticks to Stefanovic following this and his recent and very public divorce.
The other question is what do Ten have in store for Wilkinson? For example, will (potential new owners) CBS want to chance its arm at a possible new breakfast program to play against Today and Sunrise?
Interestingly, Wilkinson may have given the game up back in mid-September when she appeared on Ten’s The Project to discuss Rebel Wilson’s defamation win over Bauer Media. Even then it was deemed odd that one of Nine’s superstars would pop up on a rival network.
Discussing Wilkinson’s departure on Today this morning, Stefanovic said: “For 10 years, Lisa has dragged herself out of bed at 3:30 in the morning, fed the dogs and cats, put a load of washing on and came into work to inform you of what was happening in the world,” he began.
“For 10 years, she handled the brutal hours with grace, beauty and intelligence and a wicked sense of humour. For whatever reason she won’t be doing that anymore. It is safe to say we are all a little shocked and it will take time to sink in.
“So for now this: Thank you. Thank you for the laughs, the sage advice, the calmness, oh, the calmness. And thank you for all of your support. Thank you for being a great colleague. Thanks for being a great interviewer. Thanks for being a great dancer and a truly, truly terrible singer. Thanks for being a great mum. I know you value that more than anything else and thank you for being a great friend.
“The rest I will leave for when I see you but whatever you do, and wherever you go, you do so having made your mark on this show and on this man.
“Mostly you go with my love, lots of love, all my love. We will see you soon, maybe after midday. Enjoy the sleep-ins.”