Channel Nine has high hopes for its new Karl Stefanovic vehicle, This Time Next Year, which has been in the pipeline for more than a year now.
Indeed, a lot has changed for Stefanovic since this time last year, which makes the premise of the new show somewhat ironic.
According to Nine’s promotional blurb, every “inspirational episode” of This Time Next Year will feature people from across the country who pledge to change their lives in one year – whether it is to overcome a setback, find love, reunite with a relative or even achieve a world record.
Thanks to some judicious editing and through the magic of television, the result of each year-long pledge is then revealed in an instant.
As Karl himself says: “I met people aged from five through to their 70s, but all of them made pretty big pledges. You’ll definitely be moved by their stories, and their battle to achieve their goals is awe-inspiring. Some were successful, some weren’t. But they all have an amazing story to tell, and you’ll see just what they accomplished over the year in the blink of an eye.”
Though for Stefanovic, the past 12 months have been anything but a “blink”.
And rather than some clever editing in a post production booth, he has had to remain in the public spotlight throughout it all, fronting up on breakfast television morning after morning as his personal life unravelled around him, generating a mountain of unwanted publicity as he took up with a new woman, part-time model Jasmine Yarbrough, a move that still casts a shadow over his career to this day.
This time last year Stefanovic was playing happy dad to his three children and dutiful husband to his wife of 21 years, Cassandra Thorburn, the woman he publicly attributed much of his professional success to. Back then they called their comfortable abode in leafy Lindfield home.
A year ago the family was hatching plans for a major upgrade, with the purchase of an $8 million designer waterfront abode in Cremorne. From the outside things appeared to be going well.
Professionally Stefanovic’s career was looking pretty good, too, having just inked a deal that made him one of the richest presenters on Australian television, at more than $2 million a year.
He had also been given some seriously plum gigs, including flying off to France following the terrorist attacks, even managing to squeeze in a bit of R’n’R with his mate James Packer and the businessman’s former fiancee Mariah Carey aboard the Arctic P (though he copped a bit of flack given he was in France to cover a tragedy of epic proportions).
He gained further professional kudos after he and Lisa Wilkinson co-anchored Nine’s federal election coverage, nearly a year ago.
But in the intervening months things have taken a dive. Stefanovic never got to move into the multimillion-dollar pad in Cremorne, these days rents a cottage for $1500 a week, about the same price a set of paparazzi photos featuring him fetch today.
Things are not quite so rosy around around the set of Today, either.
For the first 28 weeks of the 2016 ratings year, Today was attracting an average of 320,000 viewers across the metropolitan markets every morning.
But, according to the corresponding figures for the same period this year, Today has lost 36,000 viewers a day, which some have blamed on Stefanovic’s private life becoming so public.
He says his new show reveals a lot can change in a year, no doubt he knows that better than anyone.