INTERVIEW: Karl Stefanovic opens up on Ratings Pressure, Mexico Wedding, and nearly quitting TODAY
Ahead of his much talked about Wedding next week in Mexico, Nine’s golden boy Karl Stefanovic has opened up on the past two tumultuous years in his life, including the failure of his previous marriage and nearly walking away from TODAY.
The honest interview came just hours after Stefanovic completed hosting his final TODAY program for 2018.
From Monday the show will be hosted by Deborah Knight and Adelaide based newsreader Brenton Ragless, whom has been tipped as a potential replacement for Stefanovic.
The Christmas break allows the TODAY family including Georgie Gardner, Sylvia Jefferys, Tim Gilbert and Richard Wilkins to travel to Mexico where they will attend Karl’s wedding to his new love, Jasmine Yarbrough;
“Jas and I are really looking forward to it. I know there's some corners that may not like it, and that's your prerogative, I'm sorry you feel that way, but we're going to Mexico, and we are going to be surrounded by family and friends, there's going to be a lot of love in the place,” Stefanovic told radio host Neil Mitchell on 3AW; “I love her very much, she's been an enormous support to me over the last two years, a real rock. She's never faltered.”
During the interview Karl admitted to being completely baffled at the intense media focus on his personal life over the last two years;
“It certainly does take its toll, but it goes with the territory these days,” “the cycle of news, gossip websites, and gossip magazines, it's all such a quick turnaround. These people can make $500 bucks for a shot of me coming out with my Ugg-Boots on, it’s easy money while people are clicking on it. It's just a different world. It’s a bit hard to get used to, but I think there's no alternative really these days when you work in TV or have a profile.”
The Breakfast TV host has had photographers permanently camped outside his Sydney home, and is often chased through the streets during family outings;
“I'm fine with paps, they're just a part of my life now, but for my kids, I think there's an element of being scared. When they come outside and someone's taking photos of them, that's really hard to explain, and even if the photos don't see the light of day, seeing someone take photos of you when you're that age, it's a very difficult process.”
When pressed on if he had ever considered walking away from TODAY, Stefanovic confessed;
“Once or twice during the past two years I’ve definitely thought about giving it in,” “I've had my mental battles with the focus on me, dealing with the emotions of (marriage) breakups and things on top of all that, and then punching into a breakfast show at 3:30am in the morning has brought difficulties, but, again, I'm not out there digging ditches, I'm not a martyr. There's a lot of people who get to go through divorce, and I'm fine. I'm getting there, and it just takes time.”
Karl’s former wife Cassandra Thorburn is now hotly rumoured to be appearing on reality show TEN’s, Dancing with the Stars in 2019;
“They say time heals all, and, hopefully, we're getting to the point now where people will be a little bit less interested in what happens to me outside of work.”
After becoming the number one metro breakfast program in 2016, this year has seen TODAY spiral downward, recently a Friday episode held a metro average of just 197k. When asked if he believed his marriage breakdown and negative headlines had been a catalyst for the switch-off, Stefanovic conceded;
“I think there is an abnormal focus on it, and if you drilled into numbers about female viewers and male viewers, there may have been a shift there. I mean, I'll take responsibility for whatever I need to take responsibility for. I just go into work every day. I try and give people a laugh, and try and do a good interview,”
When pressed on what needs to change at TODAY, Stefanovic concedes he needs to lift his game;
“I think there have been times in the last couple of years where I haven't been (focused), where there's been so much going on, where I've just punched in and punched out, and it's not been perfect it's just the way it was, but I feel like I'm back and I can concentrate now and really focused in on the stories that matter and trying to make a difference, and, also, trying to make people laugh.”
Stefanovic remains Nine’s highest paid presenter, yet despite constant denials, rumours continue to circulate his time on TODAY is nearing the end;
“I've got another two years on my contract, but there's always speculation about me coming off (TODAY),” “I don't control any of that, but I've got a two-year deal with Nine. They have been absolutely fantastic to me, from the very top with Hugh (Hugh Marks – Nine CEO), all the way down. They have not faltered, and despite the noise, and there's a lot of white noise out there, I think, hopefully, we'll ride it out and I'll look forward to spending many, many years with Nine and many years on the Today show.”
One of the most controversial moments of the year for Stefanovic came when a private phone call was released to the media, the audio depicted Karl questioning whether new co-host Georgie Gardner held enough strong opinions, and that she needed to “step up” if she “wanted to stay on the show," It's a conversation Stefanovic clearly now regrets;
“Yeah, I love her. I love her. I mean, that's one of the things that really hurt. It's very difficult to change hosts after 10 years, because Lisa and I did it for 10 years, it becomes like second nature working with someone, so there's always going to be a period of settling in. Georgie’s so committed to the show and she's so committed to the viewers, she's raised the bar for me. I'm very focused now on trying to lift my game next to her.”
Karl Stefanovic will return to TODAY in late January 2019.
Source - 3AW