Why Lisa Wilkinson will almost certainly fail

23rd October 2017 1:08 PM
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SHOW me the money. That is the phrase that springs to mind when I think about Lisa Wilkinson's switch to Channel 10.

Most of the attention around the former Today co-host's jump from Nine has centred on that whopping $2.3 million dollar a year pay cheque - and that is a potential problem for the respected star.

Her move has created a narrative that's all about money, and with that, comes big expectations.

Wilkinson will now be under immense pressure to justify the coin by delivering big audiences to all of her new shows, and there is no guarantee that will happen.

Last week I was quick to congratulate Wilkinson.

I've long said Wilkinson is one of Australia's most talented and underrated television stars - I'm a fan - but I wonder whether her popularity at breakfast on Nine will translate to prime time on Ten.

The first challenge that Wilkinson will face is hosting The Sunday Project. Good luck with that.

The Sunday night edition of Ten's news chat program has been a ratings flop ever since it began on August 27.

Last night The Sunday Project averaged a dismal 272,000 between 6.30pm and 7pm and 299,000 between 7pm and 7.30pm.

Contrast that with the 1.507 million for The Block after 7pm and you have an idea of the uphill battle Wilkinson faces.

And if Wilkinson doesn't radically improve the ratings when she helms The Sunday Project from late January you can bet there will be plenty of "Lisa's a $2.3 million dud" headlines.

Anything less than 500,000 viewers nationally will be a bit of an embarrassment given the dollars Ten has shelled out.

To my mind, Wilson's predicament mirrors that of sports stars including Dustin Martin and Lance "Buddy" Franklin in recent times.

Martin, an AFL champion at Richmond, was offered a whopping $10.5 million seven-year deal to switch to North Melbourne but turned it down.

In the end Martin decided to sacrifice around $2 million to stay with the Tigers - and was rewarded with a premiership, Brownlow Medal and Norm Smith Medal.

It was a smart move by Martin. If he had taken the money and run that massive $10.5 million windfall that the Kangaroos were offering would have been a constant source of chatter and pressure.

Lisa Wilkinson in the Newscorp Offices today as guest Editor of Delicious Magazine. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Lisa Wilkinson in the Newscorp Offices today as guest Editor of Delicious Magazine. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Week after week punters would have been questioning whether Martin was doing enough to justify the astronomical pay cheque, especially if North was having a lean season.

In 2014, Franklin switched from Hawthorn to the Sydney Swans in a $10 million nine-year deal that is still the richest in AFL history.

Ever since, stories about Franklin have centred on whether he has done enough to justify the megabucks.

Even though Franklin is considered one of the all-time greats, critics point to the fact that he hasn't helped deliver a premiership for the Swans and so, to them, the deal is a fail.

The same thing happens in Hollywood.

Jennifer Lawrence scored a whopping US$20 million salary to star alongside Chris Pratt (at US$12 million) in Passengers and people couldn't stop talking about it.

That meant the movie simply had to be a box office blockbuster. Anything less than record-breaking was going to be considered a fail because of those inflated pay cheques.

Despite Lawrence and Pratt's star power, Passengers opened to a disappointing US$36 million first week at the American box office and was deemed a failure.

Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson had undeniable chemistry, and that’s something money can’t buy.(Pic: Nine Network)
Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson had undeniable chemistry, and that’s something money can’t buy.(Pic: Nine Network)

Wilkinson is in the same quandary. There is no flying under the radar when you sign a $2.3 million per year deal.

Switching from the number one network to number three brings its own dangers. Ten's audience simply isn't as great as Nine's.

Who knows whether Wilkinson will be able to find the same sort of on-air chemistry with anyone at Ten that she had with Karl Stefanovic. That is in the lap of the gods, and no amount of money can create it.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks made money the central issue of Wilkinson's departure. He said that she wanted $2.3 million and he would only stump up $1.8 million.

Wilkinson wasn't shy about making money the main issue either, and helped steer a welcome national conversation about gender pay parity - but as soon as you do that, markers like credibility, talent and creativity take a back seat.

The money is in the spotlight and it will never go away. It will dominate the conversation around Wilkinson for years to come.

The pressure is on.