Is it last drinks for Doyle at Seven?
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.