The bloodbath at Nine is finally over and this week marks the start of a new era for the iconic breakfast TV show, which has slashed its budget by appointing new talent at half the cost of the veteran stars who were sacked.
And make no mistake, it's respected Today host Georgie Gardner who is firmly in charge of the changes sweeping the show, having been given a bigger say than any former host on how the program could evolve.
"Georgie was promised when she came back to Today that Karl would be gone, and that she would have the ultimate say over who replaced him," reveals one Nine source. "And her first choice was always Deb Knight."
Georgie was given unprecedented power over the show's new direction, but management was also determined to slash their costs – especially since they still have to pay Karl's $2 million salary for the next two years, despite his axing.
"Yes, they needed to do something radical to save what many have thought was a dead-in-the-water show, but it was also a brutal cost-cutting exercise," reveals another source.
"The big stars they got rid of were all on inflated salaries, which the network can no longer afford."
Deb, 46, has had her salary bumped up to $500,000 – half of what Georgie, 48, is being paid and a mere quarter of Karl's salary – but she is also understood to have a clause in her contract for a bonus if Today's lacklustre ratings improve significantly.
"They had to pay the million-plus for Georgie to lure her out of retirement because she was adamant that she didn't want to work the early hours, or even more importantly, she really, really didn't want to work with Karl again," our source says.
"But the days of those salaries at Today are over. Even Tracy Grimshaw, who is considered the grand dame of Nine after fronting A Current Affair for so many years, earns $750,000, and her show is a ratings success.
"If you think about the heads that have rolled in the past few weeks, it's clear that Nine have slashed the budget because Sylvia Jeffreys was on $350,000, Tim Gilbert was on $250,000 and Richard Wilkins was earning $400,000. If you include Karl's $2 million salary, then that's almost $3 million in cost savings with just those four heads."
Their replacements come much cheaper – Georgie's big salary is almost less than half of what Nine offered Lisa Wilkinson to stay on the show before she jumped ship to Ten's The Project for a rumoured $1.8m salary.
Sylvia's successor, former 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort, will earn 30 per cent less than the glamorous newsreader with a rumoured salary of $250,000, while entertainment editor Richard Wilkins' replacement, former Triple J newsreader Brooke Boney, is being paid less than half of what he took home.
Sports presenter Tim Gilbert, who was axed from Today last week, was earning $250,000, and his replacement, Melbourne sports commentator Tony Jones, is understood to be earning only slightly less than Tim, but he has other commitments, including fronting Nine's Australian Open tennis coverage.
Cost savings aside, Nine insiders have also revealed Georgie has fought to cut back on the stunts and hijinks, which Karl wanted, and present a more news and issues-based breakfast show.
As part of this shift, respected finance editor Ross Greenwood, who was Georgie's second pick behind Deb to replace Karl, will have a bigger role on Today to provide an alternative to Sunrise star and finance guru David Koch.
Melbourne sports presenter Tony Jones was last week announced as Tim Gilbert's replacement, but he's rumoured to only be a temporary placement until Nine can land their dream man – Shane Crawford!
"Today needs a Melbourne voice, and they are desperate for AFL legend and top-notch presenter Shane Crawford," an insider tells Woman's Day.
"He's happily married, and all round he's one of the best in the business."
Indeed, aside from his sport credentials, the 44-year-old Brownlow Medal winner is an appealing candidate to Nine bosses with his wholesome family man image – the doting dad shares four boys, Charlie, 12, Benjamin, 10, and twins Jack and Harry, seven, with his wife Olivia.
However, sources say it hasn't been easy getting Shane to sign on the dotted line.
"He turned down their initial offer so they upped it but he doesn't want to uproot his family – it would take a lot of money to move him out of Melbourne," an insider says.
If Nine is unable to snag Shane, there's the possibility they may even just eliminate the role altogether and drop the sport in at the end of news – at least until they find a suitable replacement, with Clint Stanaway's name also being thrown around.
After weeks of turmoil, Woman's Day hears Nine was apprehensive about signing Tony, 57, on full-time, especially given his embarrassing track record.
Indeed, viewers still remember Tony for his awkward exchange with weather presenter Rebecca Judd, when he tried to give her a kiss on live TV in 2016.
Watch the awkward moment Rebecca Judd snubs Tony Jones. Post continues after video...
Breakfast TV's former golden boy has few friends left at Nine after the fallout from his chaotic personal life and the terrible toll it's taken on Today's ratings. "He's really on the nose with everyone at Nine," claims one staffer.
"All these pay cuts and slashed budgets are a direct result of his disastrous last two years at Today. He's got few friends left in the place, other than his long-time buddy from A Current Affair, Steve Marshall."
And if reports are correct that Nine is considering sending Karl to the US to rehabilitate his tarnished public image, then even more staff will be up in arms.
"Some of the young guns have done the hard yards and are already furious knowing they may be overlooked for Karl for the coveted US correspondent role," says the staffer.
"If that happens, the morale will sink even further at Nine."
Former 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort campaigned to take Sylvia's job – and accepted a lower salary than hers.
Insiders fear after his easy life at 60 Minutes, the bachelor will struggle with the early starts.
"He's also not great at banter, which could make for awkward viewing," our source says.
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Australian Women's WeeklyYesterday 11:36am