Is it last drinks for Doyle at Seven?

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - ANNETTE SHARP -

She sur­vived the me­te­oric rise of Sam Army­tage at the ex­pense of her own cel­e­brated ca­reer and the as­so­ci­ated ca­reer down­grade to 7TWO — but few believe Melissa Doyle will sur­vive the cost cut­ting be­gun at Seven last week un­der new CEO and broom James War­bur­ton.

As news swept the in­dus­try on Fri­day that the axe had fallen on Seven’s head of sport and Tokyo Olympics’ supremo Saul Shtein, the in­dus­try held its breath for an an­nounce­ment con­cern­ing Seven’s flag­ship pub­lic af­fairs pro­gram, Sun­day Night.

The news pro­gram’s card was marked four months ago when its ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Hamish Thom­son left the pro­gram fol­low­ing sus­pen­sion for al­legedly telling a fe­male staffer, at a party, she was in need of a “good f...”.

Thom­son packed up his desk in June and was not re­placed by news bosses — a de­ci­sion that has fu­elled talk the pro­gram would be can­celled at the end of the cur­rent and 11th sea­son.

On Fri­day, Sun­day Night staff were brac­ing for an an­nounce­ment that could see their unit shut down per­ma­nently and as many as 10 staff shed: a move that would po­ten­tially de­liver mil­lions in sav­ings to cash-strapped Seven.

Along with Doyle, also at­tached to the show are re­porters An­gela Cox, Matt Do­ran, Steve Pen­nells, Den­ham Hitchcock and Alex Cullen as well as pro­duc­ers, plus cam­era and sound crew.

It’s ex­pected some may be re­ab­sorbed into Seven’s news de­part­ment how­ever a ques­tion­mark hangs over Doyle.

Af­ter Thom­son, she is the most ex­pen­sive — and high­est pro­file — mem­ber of the Sun­day Night team.

She is rep­re­sented by SEL, the man­age­ment com­pany founded by one of the most no­to­ri­ously un­avail­able and hard-bar­gain­ing agents in sports man­age­ment, IMG fore­fa­ther James Ersk­ine, the for­mer agent to Greg Nor­man, Shane Warne, Ian Thorpe and Tiger Woods.

Doyle is be­lieved to be on a con­tract worth about $400,000. She was on sub­stan­tially more, re­port­edly $700,000, dur­ing her 12-year ca­reer as found­ing an­chor of Sun­rise but agreed to take a hefty pay cut af­ter step­ping down from the break­fast show in 2013 at the height of her fame.

Doyle then swiftly shed 10kg and moved into af­ter­noon news­read­ing du­ties on Seven’s pri­mary chan­nel and into a prime-time news read­ing role on 7TWO. That bul­letin proved short-lived how­ever and was axed in May the fol­low­ing year — the same year Doyle moved into a week­end ra­dio spot on SmoothFM.

She fi­nally re­placed Chris Bath at the helm of Sun­day Night in 2015, sign­ing off from her af­ter­noon news bul­letin com­mit­ment that same year.

Eleven years af­ter it was launched, Sun­day Night con­tin­ues to strug­gle in the rat­ings and in meet­ing its early brief to desta­bilise Nine’s en­trenched 60 Min­utes which is broad­cast the same night.

Last week, Sun­day Night at­tracted 400,000 view­ers (all peo­ple, five cap­i­tal cities) to 60 Min­utes on 509,000.

Con­tro­versy has also dogged the show from its ear­li­est days with three of four ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers — and vet­eran re­porters Mike Munro and Ross Coulthart — leav­ing in colour­ful cir­cum­stances.

The first ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer to aban­don the show was found­ing EP and co-cre­ator Adam Boland who launched the show in 2009 — two years af­ter he suf­fered a break­down while at the helm of Sun­rise and The Morn­ing Show. He left Sun­day Night within the first year of pro­duc­tion.

Pro­gram host Munro re­tired as host in 2011 to con­cen­trate on on-the-road re­port­ing fol­low­ing re­ports he’d had clashes with staff. He later ad­mit­ted if crew mem­bers weren’t up to the job he was in­clined to tell them. He qui­etly left Sun­day Night in 2011 and Seven the fol­low­ing year.

The sec­ond EP to leave amid ugly head­lines was pro­gram cocre­ator and joint EP to Boland, Mark Llewellyn, who was sacked by Seven in 2014 af­ter get­ting into a phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tion with a ju­nior pro­ducer of the show, Paul Water­house, in the of­fice.

Coulthart quit af­ter be­com­ing dis­tressed at how the Llewellyn v Water­house in­ci­dent was man­aged.

The third EP to leave con­tro­ver­sially was Thom­son. Only ex-ABC pro­ducer Steve Tay­lor, who took over from Llewellyn in 2014 and was re­placed in 2016 to make way for Thom­son, walked away from the pro­gram un­scathed.

Whether Doyle, 49, now can re­mains to be seen, with in­sid­ers pre­dict­ing she will be man­aged out with a hefty pay­out, much like her pre­de­ces­sor at Sun­day Night, Chris Bath, was in 2015 and head of sport Shtein was on Fri­day. AN­NETTE. [email protected] NEWS. COM. AU TWIT­TER: @ INSHARPREL­IEF

In­sid­ers are pre­dict­ing she will be man­aged out with a hefty pay­out

Found­ing Sun­rise an­chor Melissa Doyle has been host­ing Sun­day Night since 2015.

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