Lisa Wilkinson’s sudden departure from Nine is barely 24 hours old, and already the recriminations and unflattering headlines have begun.
Wilkinson spectacularly quit the network on Monday night to join rival Ten after Nine chiefs baulked at her asking salary of a reported $2.3 million. She has since signed for Ten on a reported $2 million a year and will start at the broadcaster in 2018. When Ten’s new owners CBS finally arrive she could well be the highest paid celebrity on Australian TV.
Her departure has quickly escalated in the media to a general (and important) discussion on the gender pay gap. “Lisa wasn’t being paid the same as Karl and did the right thing and told her bosses to shove it” appears the consensus. Wilkinson has even stated she was more popular on Today and should be paid more.
During Wilkinson’s six-month contract negotiations, she apparently told Nine CEO, Hugh Marks, “I want you guys to close the gender pay gap”, The Australian has reported.
Interestingly, a Nine insider revealed to B&T that Wilkinson had become a “prima donna” at the network and despite her popularity with audiences the broadcaster wasn’t all that sad to see her head for the exits.
Marks even telling journalists that if he’d met Wilkinson’s demand he would have had to lay of 10 producers from the network.
Meanwhile a unnamed Nine executive has told The Daily Telegraph that, “Karl is worth more money. That’s just a fact.”
Stefanovic’s annual salary is reported to be $2.3 million salary ($3 million with bonuses) and was negotiated when arch-rival Seven was doing its darndest to poach him away. Stefanovic also has a number of other commitments with the Network that Wilkinson does not. Hosting This Time Next Year, reporting on 60 Minutes and fill-in duties at A Current Affair to name a few.
“As the host of two shows, Today and This Time Next Year, as well as a contributor to 60 Minutes and a specialist news reporter, Karl is worth more money. That’s just a fact,” the Nine executive told The Tele.
The other question remains, will Wilkinson’s replacement – rumoured to be Georgie Gardiner or (Karl’s sister-in-law) Sylvia Jeffreys – be immediately paid the same as Stefanovic despite not having the runs on the board?
And even bigger question surrounds Ten’s plans for Wilkinson. It seems odd they’d pay a 57-year-old career veteran $2 million to host The Project which is, primarily, a news program aimed at Millennials and hardly pulls bumper audience numbers.
Last night, The Project was singing the praises of its new recruit. The show’s host Carrie Bickmore said: “Nine’s loss is our gain here at Network Ten. An incredible woman — smart, funny, down to earth. We couldn’t be more excited.”
Waleed Aly added: “I have always really loved Lisa and it is nice to be able to contractually say it now.”