Karl Stefanovic has shared his delight at returning to the Today Show, admitting he didn’t think he’d be able to go back after his shock axing last year.
‘I thought my time was up,’ he said in a statement released by Nine on Saturday.
But after dismal ratings throughout the year under replacement hosts Deb Knight and Georgie Gardner, executives had to swallow their pride and turn back to the man who they ousted at the end of 2018.
Both Stefanovic and his new co-host Allison Langdon assured viewers that the revamped show ‘won’t be boring’ – in what appears to be a subtle dig at the Gardner and Knight product which was stripped of much of the verve and spontaneity that had previously made Today a hit.
Darren Wick, Nine’s director of news, admitted having the all-female presenting team was a mistake, as evidenced by ratings which had plunged to record lows.
‘We took a bold decision to try something new with two women hosting the Today Show this year and regrettably that has not worked for the audience,’ he said.
Stefanovic’s sensational dumping came just days after his lavish Mexican wedding to Jasmine Yarbrough, 35.
Karl Stefanovic (right) will return to host the Today show in 2020, alongside Weekend Today host Allison Langdon (left), Nine has confirme
Stefanovic and Langdon will replace Georgie Gardner (right) and Deb Knight (left) after they struggled with ratings throughout the course of the year
He was able to continue hosting his show, This Time Next Year until October, when it was axed, and worked with current affair show 60 Minutes.
The 45-year-old said he ‘loved’ his time with the 60 Minutes team but missed using his skills for a live show format.
‘It’s a big job with enormous pressures and I know only too well some of those pitfalls, but it is also without question the best live job in Australia,’ he said.
‘The [Today] show and the audience make me feel alive. I’m up for the fight and I want to fight for our audience,’ he said.
Unwilling to directly criticise his predecessors, he told the Sydney Morning Herald Knight and Gardner had ‘been through an extremely difficult time dealing with outside forces, and I know that better than anyone’.
‘I know what great journalists they are and how hard they work, and I admire them both,’ he said.
Stefanovic also heaped praise on his co-host, Langdon.
‘Ally is her own confident, capable woman and I will be there to help her any step of the way but we are equals in this fight and I feel confident in our partnership,’ he said.
‘We’re both good journalists, we both love a laugh and it won’t be boring.’
Stefanovic was originally ousted from the program on December 19 last year after 14 years with the program
Stefanovic’s sensational dumping came just days after his lavish Mexican wedding to Jasmine Yarbrough (right), 35
Langdon said there is ‘a lot of hard work ahead’ but agreed the show ‘wouldn’t be boring’.
‘I love the unpredictability of live TV… and Karl. Wind him up and let him go!’ she said.
‘I’m sure we’ll butt heads, but we’ll do it with a smile on our face. I just want to help our viewers get their day off to a good, fun start.’
But under the fun will be a steady focus on rebuilding what was once the nation’s top-rating breakfast show.
He told the Herald he and Langdon would ‘fight hard’ to win back their viewership.
‘My personal life is very settled now, we are happy. my work focus is solely on our stories and the way we tell them,’ he said.
Mr Wick said everyone involved would remain within the network, and the full line-up for the revamped Today Show had not yet been decided.
Gardener will return to Nine News, with a television source telling Daily Mail Australia: ‘Georgie is an excellent news reader and reporter and will be a much better fit in the Nine Newsroom.’
Stefanovic (second from the left) is pictured with Sylvia Jeffreys (left), Lisa Wilkinson (second from the right) and Richard Wilkins (right)
Gardner (right) is expected to return to Nine News amid the Today show switch up
Gardner and Knight have struggled to compete with Seven’s Sunrise, with Today’s ratings reaching an all-time low of 155,000 last Friday. This was almost half of Sunrise’s 277,000.
In comparison, Today show ratings hovered around 300,000 throughout 2016 and 2017 when Stefanovic was host with Lisa Wilkinson.
The insider said Karl and Allison are ‘great journalists’ who will ‘make a great team’.
‘Karl has had a year off to recharge and get his mojo back and Allison has been honing her skills as a morning show host on Weekend Today,’ the source said.
‘Both have tremendous experience reporting for 60 Minutes, Nine News and Today – so they’ll make a great team.’
The source said Nine will spend the next month trying to decide who else will feature on Today and Today Extra, as well as finding a replacement for Sonia Kruger, who is moving to Channel 7.
Karl Stefanovic (pictured) will return to the Today show in 2020, with Allison Langdon
Allison Langdon (pictured) currently hosts Weekend Today and reports for 60 Minutes
‘Deb Knight is a strong journo who will no doubt be considered for an expanded role across Nine News and maybe even across Nine’s radio assets,’ the source said.
‘Expect to see Tracy Vo, Tim Davies and Sylvia Jeffreys rotate across Today and Today Extra over the coming month as Nine News management work out who are the right people to sit alongside Karl and Allison.’
The insider believes Stefanovic and Langdon are the perfect recipe to ‘challenge Sunrise once again’.
Stefanovic was sacked from the Today show on the back of a ratings dive that came at a time when his personal life was highly publicised.
The start of the program’s downward spiral can be traced back to September 2016, when it emerged Karl had separated from his wife and the mother of his three children, Cassandra Thorburn.
Gardner and Knight have struggled to compete with Seven’s Sunrise, with Today’s ratings reaching an all-time low of 155,000 last Friday. This was almost half of Sunrise’s 277,000
A few months after the split, he began dating former-model-turned-shoe-designer Jasmine Yarbrough, who is ten years his junior.
The pair were married during a lavish four-day wedding in Mexico in the month of his axing.
Stefanovic released a statement at the time of his sacking, where he praised the ‘best show’ on TV.
‘For the last 14 years I’ve co-hosted the best show on television,’ he said at the time.
‘I can’t thank Nine enough for the opportunity. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be good enough to host this grand show for so long.
‘Thanks to our viewers mostly, you are what matters most. It’s been a tough time. Thanks for hanging in there.’
THE RISE AND FALL OF KARL STEFANOVIC
1994: After obtaining a journalism degree, Karl begins working for WIN in Rockhampton and Cairns as a cadet reporter
2000: Karl Stefanovic joins Channel Nine as a reporter in Brisbane
2005: He replaces Steve Liebmann as the host of the Today show
2011: His career at Channel Nine peaks when he wins the coveted Gold Logie
2008 – 2012: Karl co-hosts Carols By Candlelight with Lisa Wilkinson
2015: In October, his ‘serious’ panel show The Verdict flops in the ratings
Late 2015: Karl signs multi-million dollar deal with Nine after offer from Seven
2016: Karl apologises for using a transgender slur. Later, his popularity falls when he splits with wife Cassandra Thorburn
Late 2016: Starts dating Jasmine Yarbrough, months after leaving his marriage
February 2017: He is pictured canoodling with Jasmine on a boat, accelerating his dip in popularity
Late 2017: Karl’s brand takes another hit when Lisa Wilkinson quits Today in a gender pay gap scandal
March 2018: Karl and Peter get caught complaining about Channel Nine in Ubergate scandal
September 2018: Nine CEO Hugh Mark’s publicly criticises Karl’s performance
December 8, 2018: Karl marries Jasmine Yarbrough in Mexico
December 19, 2018: He is sacked from the Today show, but remains with Nine
2019: Karl hosts This Time Next Year on Nine. The show is axed in October
Late 2019: Rumours continue to swirl Karl could return to the Today show