Entertainment TV Lisa Wilkinson leaves Channel Nine’s Today to join Ten’s The Project
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Lisa Wilkinson leaves Channel Nine’s Today to join Ten’s The Project

Lisa Wilkinson has defected to Channel Ten Photo: Supplied
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In a shock announcement, Today show co-host Lisa Wilkinson has quit the Nine Network after 10 years to join Network Ten.

She announced her departure via Twitter, saying she was “sad to say that today was my last day on the Today show”.

She referred to a statement from Channel Nine CEO Hugh Marks, which said the network “confirmed we have been unable to meet the expectations of Lisa Wilkinson and her manager on a contract renewal for a further period”.

“We express our gratitude to Lisa for her 10 years with the Today Show and are disappointed we find ourselves in this position.”

Minutes after that bombshell, Channel Ten released a statement saying it was “delighted to announce that Lisa Wilkinson is joining the network in a senior hosting and editorial role, effective, January, 2018”.

Media colleagues and observers were quick to view the decision as one based around money and the discrepancy between her salary and that of co-host Karl Stefanovic.

The negotiations between Nine and Wilkinson have apparently been going on for some weeks, with much made of a report that she was seeking parity with Stefanovic, who can reportedly make up to $3 million per year, depending on ratings.

Wilkinson reportedly earned less than half of that, but the truth of those reports isn’t known, partly because the veteran journalist has repeatedly refused to discuss their salaries.

Wilkinson did not co-host Today on Tuesday morning, with Deb Knight  filling in.

Stefanovic alluded to “a very big day for us on the show and a very big day for Lisa Wilkinson” opening the show at 5.30am, before later admitting her decision “came as a bit of a shock for us”.

“We will be chatting a bit more about that and her as our great friends and sharing laughs with you later in the program,” he said. 

Wilkinson will initially join The Project in a hosting role, including fronting the newly launched The Sunday Project.

Channel Ten’s chief content officer Beverley McGarvey said securing Wilkinson was a coup as she was “one of the most respected journalists and television presenters in Australia”.

“In a career that has spanned magazines, radio, television and digital media, Lisa has established herself as a leading figure in the Australian media industry,” she said.

Her former Today co-host Karl Stefanovic tends to get more attention than Wilkinson (partly because of the headlines he attracts), but she provided the warmth, stability and much of the credibility to the Today show.

Marks said the partnership between Wilkinson and Stefanovic “has taken the show to the success it is today”.

Wilkinson became editor of Dolly magazine at the age of 21 and went on to be international editor-in-chief of Cleo. She worked for Weekend Sunrise on the Seven Network before jumping ship to Today 10 years ago.

She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia earlier this year and, earlier this month, she and her husband Peter FitzSimons got married again to mark their 25th anniversary.

She’s currently also Australian editor-at-large for the Huffington Post. Wilkinson will be a welcome addition to Ten’s stable as the network begins a new life under the CBS umbrella.

Its statement says it will be announcing “further collaborations” in the coming months. The Project will be an excellent holding pen for her – but she will probably bring a great deal more than that to the struggling network.

Ten said Wilkinson would join Carrie Bickmore, Waleed Aly and Peter Helliar on its current affairs show and will also host The Sunday Project, with the program having recently expanded to six nights a week.

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