The Today show’s latest gaffe – lewd on-air jokes about Dolly Parton’s breasts – could lose advertisers as well as turn off viewers for Nine’s problem child breakfast show.
“It’s a hot mess. They’ve taken the fun away and replaced it with something cringeworthy,” Virginia Hyland, owner and founder of Sydney communications agency Hyland, told The New Daily.
“The trouble is you lose credit really fast in this market and whether it’s bawdy humour or what happened with Karl, you leave a nasty taste in people’s mouths faster than you used to.
“There’s zero tolerance to objectifying women as the poor cousins to men. The final nail in the coffin.”
Ms Hyland hasn’t heard in the market “yet” of big dollars being pulled from Today, but “they don’t have a lot of time to get it right,” she warned.
“It won’t take long. The nightmare with the Dolly Parton thing and the backlash about those comments plus maybe another week or so of poor ratings, and you’ll start to see a shift in business decision making.
“All agencies are under pressure to deliver for their clients and their brand, and it will only take a week or so,” Ms Hyland said.
Nine bosses may not be having sleepless nights yet. Their reality juggernaut Married at First Sight is pulling in about 1.7 million viewers and huge advertising revenue.
A waking nightmare
After a week when its ratings dropped to a 10-year low (last Wednesday it drew an average five-city audience of 177,000 viewers against Seven rival Sunrise’s 300,000) Today’s new “nightmare” unfolded on Tuesday.
Sports presenter Tony Jones and newsreader Tom Steinfort – both imports to the show this year – watched a clip of Parton’s Grammy Awards performance and made fun of her figure.
“She is age defying and gravity defying,” Steinfort said. He was mildly reprimanded by giggling entertainment reporter Brooke Boney: “I beg your pardon”.
Jones jumped in with his own observation about the country star’s duet with her god-daughter Miley Cyrus.
“Just seeing those two on stage I thought was fantastic. And Miley, of course,” Jones said.
Boney, Steinfort and weatherman Steve Jacobs cracked up. “Too many boys. See what happens when we get them together,” Boney said.
Georgie Gardner, whose Today persona is akin to a private school principal, appeared uncomfortable and threw to her co-host Deb Knight.
“There we go, there we go. It’s a dysfunctional family at work. Let’s get someone to save us. Deb, over to you,” Gardner said.
Ms Hyland said other presenters could have clawed back credibility for the show by slamming the poor jokes: “Not responding is just pathetic.”
Viewers jumped online to condemn the Today crew’s “boob jokes” as “effing gross” and “shocking” enough to make them change channels permanently.
One Twitter user told the show to “grow up” and another said, “How disappointing and disrespectful to lady of 73 who was just honoured by her entire industry as person of the year”.
Another noted Jones is “fast becoming the Today show’s version of new Coke“.
Given how he's started on the Today Show, why not have Tony Jones replace Tony Jones as host of #qanda? I'm sure 9 would release him. It'd solve one problem.
— Anthony Leach (@ahleach) February 11, 2019
@Channel9 I love the new format of the Today Show, especially Georgie,Deb,Tom & Stevie, but please get rid of smutty Tony Jones it is not a footy show, his humour is totally out of place. Bring back Tim Gilbert not only a lovely man but funny.
— Kerry Sweeney (@KerrySweeney13) February 11, 2019
Nine refused to comment on the controversial segment to The New Daily.
The network’s failure to admit the Parton jokes were tone deaf is a problem given Nine installed two women hosts this year to win back female viewers, Ms Hyland said.
“They’ve really got to understand how the culture has changed in terms of what people expect from their entertainment and their news on air every morning,” she said.
Nine bosses could do worse than look at the chemistry of successful radio pairings, Ms Hyland said.
“They seem to have hit the mark in that balance between being entertaining and being a bit saucy without being insulting.”
How do you fix it? “Total fresh start,” Ms Hyland said.
“Look at some fun fresh blood, someone with a comedian streak but not that bawdy humour that isn’t acceptable. And older, more serious presenters as well.”