Seven has not confirmed Kruger’s appointment but sources at the network suggest she may front its upcoming revival of Big Brother. Between 2012 and 2014, Kruger hosted Big Brother on Nine. The reality show originally aired on 10 between 2001 and 2008.
Kruger’s move creates a fresh headache for Nine as it attempts to fix its underperforming morning programs Today and Today Extra. On Saturday, the network confirmed that Karl Stefanovic will return to Today in 2020 with new co-host Allison Langdon, replacing current anchors Deborah Knight and Georgie Gardner.
Hits such as Married At First Sight and Lego Masters have given Nine an edge in prime time this year while Seven’s ageing reality franchises saw the network lose viewers, resulting in the abrupt departure of CEO Tim Worner. In August, Worner was replaced by former 10 boss James Warburton.
But Nine’s early morning woes – triggered by the exit of Today co-host Lisa Wilkinson in 2017 and compounded by the removal of Stefanovic in 2018 – have allowed Seven’s Sunrise to surge ahead. On November 1, Today’s metropolitan audience dropped to 155,000 viewers, taking third place behind Sunrise (298,000) and ABC News Breakfast (159,000 across two channels).
“An ad in prime time can cost 10 times more than an ad on a morning show because the audiences are so much bigger at night,” says analyst Ian Warner, a partner at Moonlighting Media. “If it was a choice between winning mornings or nights, James Warburton would much rather be king of prime time.”
Conventional wisdom holds that viewers who watch a certain channel at breakfast are more likely to tune in at night – but Warner disputes it.
“It’s an argument from the days when TV sets had knobs you had to physically turn,” he says. “Now people watch things on their laptops or phones and they’re accustomed to switching between [content on different devices].”
Still, every network desires the bragging rights that come with winning the breakfast slot. And the more viewers they attract each morning, the better they can promote their prime time offerings.
“The biggest client a TV network has is itself,” Warner says. “The first ad in a commercial break is always an ad for one of their owns programs.”
Kruger, 54, came to prominence in 1992 playing Tina Sparkle in Baz Luhrmann’s romantic comedy Strictly Ballroom.
In her 14-year stint at Seven, she appeared on Dancing With The Stars, 10 Years Younger In 10 Days and various news and current affairs programs. Her partner is Seven’s news and public affairs director, Craig McPherson.
Over the past fortnight, Kruger has been the subject of conflicting media reports: some claiming she was poised to lose her job at Nine and others suggesting the network had offered her a three-year deal worth $1.5 million.
“She won’t be replacing anyone on Sunrise or The Morning Show, although there is hope she can be used there,” said a Seven executive, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorised to discuss contract negotiations. “There’s a few prime-time shows they are considering her for.”
Michael Lallo is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.