He was unceremoniously dumped from his hosting duties last December, but media speculation is growing that Nine is considering bringing back Karl Stefanovic to arrest Today’s plummeting viewer numbers.
Stefanovic has been strangely absent from TV screens since before Christmas and that’s despite a year left to run on his reported $3 million-plus annual contract.
Today’s issue of Bauer’s Woman’s Day is quoting an unnamed Nine source as saying Today producers want to return Stefanovic to his hosting duties, conceding that viewers haven’t taken to the all-female line-up of Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight that has subsequently handed arch-rival Sunrise a commanding 100,000 lead in audience numbers.
“There’s virtually no chemistry between Georgie and Deb, but Karl and Deb work well together and have a sense of humour which resonates with viewers, whereas Georgie is still seen as prim and proper,” the mole reportedly told Woman’s Day.
However, Nine has debunked news of a possible Stefanovic comeback, a spokesperson telling B&T: “Karl remains with Nine and will return to air with This Time Next Year later this year. The Woman’s Day report is completely untrue.”
There had been speculation Nine would try and reinvent the 44-year-old as a more serious journalist either via 60 Minutes or his own evening chat show. Rumours he may quit TV altogether and make a switch to talkback radio have also been doing the rounds.
But a Stefanovic return makes sense. Nine knows it has to do something to turn Today’s fortunes around, Stefanovic hadn’t done anything so bad as for viewers to reject him completely, plus there would be enormous interest – both from viewers and advertisers – if it were to eventuate.
Another supporter of the idea is former Nine executive and host of the industry podcast TV Blackbox, Rob McNight.
“Karl’s comeback could be the story of the year. Nine has to face up to the fact it was a mistake to get rid of him,” McKnight said.
“Now he’s been through the worst year of his life, he could come back, reconnect with viewers and really help get the show back on track,” he said.
The other problem for Stefanovic is that he’s still seen as on the nose by some of Nine’s management following the infamous “Uber gate” scandal last March where he reportedly savaged management and colleagues in a drunken rant with his brother, Peter. The latter leaving the broadcaster a week before Christmas after his contract was not renewed.