Nine breakfast show sinks to ‘record low’
THE honeymoon appears over for Nine's new Today, with the flatlining breakfast show posting yet another new ratings low overnight.
Despite the network pulling top spot in prime-time with its reality hit Married At First Sight, those viewers are not staying true to Today, which drew a dismal five-city audience of just 177,000 viewers - embarrassed again by Seven's Sunrise which averaged 300,000 people.
The national figures (which combine metro and regional viewers) were worse still, with Sunrise streaking Today by 550,000 viewers to 269,000 - a staggering margin of 88 per cent.
Nine network bosses would have expected a bounce for its revamped breakfast program, anticipating some of the MAFS success - which soared to a peak audience of 2.138 million viewers - would carry over to its beleaguered new on-air pairing of Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight.
The experimental line-up was forced on the network after the catastrophic PR fallout from Lisa Wilkinson's defection to Ten over a pay parity dispute, on top of former host Karl Stefanovic's acrimonious divorce from wife Cassandra Thorburn, who waged a public war against her ex-husband and his new wife, Jasmine Yarbrough.
At the time of the newlyweds nuptials in Mexico, Thorburn reportedly gave an airport interview to a paparazzo, who sold the details to New Idea magazine, in which she allegedly claimed he had "a lot to hide" and "everything he says is about this fake person who lives in this fake castle."
Stefanovic is believed to have sought legal advice to silence his ex-wife and the mother of his three children, claiming she was in breach of an agreement they would not publicly criticise each other - which had the potential to further damage his career and more importantly affect and traumatise their children caught in the ugly and public crossfire.
Thorburn has since signed up to appear on Ten's Dancing With The Stars later this month, in an attempt to re-establish a media profile of her own.
But the fallout from the bitter split took a considerable toll on Stefanovic's co-stars - with sister-in-law Sylvia Jeffreys moved off Today and reassigned to a yet-to-be confirmed role in prime-time; while her husband Peter Stefanovic - who was caught up with his brother sledging their bosses in the back of an Uber last year - was dumped by the network altogether.
Continuing the clean sweep, Today's director of morning television Mark Calvert also left Nine, joining Sky News where he hired Today's axed sportsreader Tim Gilbert, who will co-host a new racing program with Peter Gleeson each Saturday.
Nine then appointed former ACA executive producer Stephen Burling to take the reins, but the ratings rot has continued over summer when viewers turned on new sportsreader Tony Jones and criticised the new line-up's lack of chemistry.