Radio host Ben Fordham has been suggested as a potential replacement for Karl Stefanovic by Today viewers after he filled in for the absent host this week.
Fordham, who spent four years as the morning show’s sports reporter, announced on Instagram on Sunday he would be Georgie Gardner’s co-host for the week, prompting fans to suggest he stay on full-time.
Fordham, who is married to Channel 7 journalist Jodie Speers with whom he has two children, currently works as host of Sydney radio station 2GB’s drive program.
“I’m hosting @thetodayshow this week with this awesome human. Tune in,” Fordham, 41, captioned the photo of himself and Gardner, 47.
According to a Channel 9 spokesperson, Stefanovic’s absence is for annual leave.
This marks his sixth week off hosting duties this year, according to the Daily Mail.
When contacted by The New Daily, a Nine spokesperson didn’t want to go into specifics about the regularity of Stefanovic’s absences.
Fordham’s Instagram followers were delighted by the news he was stepping into the breach, with many suggesting he host “full time”, with many saying they’d “start watching again” thanks to Fordham’s presence.
“I will definitely be tuning in. I just wish it was permanent,” one wrote, while others described Gardner and Fordham as “the dream team”.
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Meanwhile, Stefanovic’s personal life has been made very public in recent months following his divorce from wife of 21 years, Cassandra Thorburn, and his subsequent romance with Jasmine Yarbrough.
Thorburn’s scathing criticism of her former spouse – she penned an open letter saying Stefanovic, 43, is “dead” to her – certainly didn’t help.
In March, a private conversation Stefanovic had with his brother and Nine colleague Peter Stefanovic about Gardner and other Nine employees was illegally recorded by an Uber driver and leaked to the media, forcing Stefanovic to apologise.
But media analyst Steve Allen believes rumours Nine management are “phasing” out Stefanovic are unfounded and that the backlash is instead “a localised campaign by viewers quite disaffected by Karl”.
“There’s no question some of what’s happened in his life would have made a group of the current viewers quite disaffected,” Allen said.
“There have been reactions when these snafus happen, but in the longer run he is not in serious strife yet.”
While this week’s daily ratings figures are slightly higher than last week, Allen argues that across the board there’s no difference.
“[This week’s ratings] certainly suggest that Ben is good in the short term as a fill-in,” Allen said.
“It says to Nine: we’ve got some flexibility if we need it.”
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Following the departure of Stefanovic’s co-host Lisa Wilkinson in October over a pay dispute, Allen believes Nine would be unlikely to risk removing its second anchor.
“I don’t think there’s anything in the figures currently that would justify such a move,” he said.
Allen points out that both morning shows have been battling recently in regards to their public image
Seven’s Sunrise was embroiled in scandal when it aired a controversial segment featuring two non-Indigenous commentators discussing the Stolen Generations.
The ensuing furore resulted in protests outside the show’s Sydney studios and prompted one musical guest, Alaskan band Portugal. The Man, to pull out of their appearance on the program.
“It looks like the two breakfast shows themselves are down a bit year on year, both with some problems,” Allen said, adding that cash giveaways and exclusives are really the only things that boost ratings.
Fordham’s management, his brother Nick Fordham, declined to comment on this story when contacted by The New Daily.