Star news anchor Hilary Barry is expected to join TVNZ's Breakfast show after her shock defection from TV3 - and the state broadcaster is reportedly writing a half-million dollar cheque for her.
The Weekend Herald broke the news Barry had quit TV3, the latest high-profile casualty after 18 months of drama at the network. Sources said her departure to arch-rival TVNZ was a double whammy from which TV3 would struggle to recover.
Barry is a linchpin at both ends of the day for MediaWorks - on the Paul Henry Show in the morning and as 6pm news co-host.
TVNZ is said to be eager to get Barry on board at Breakfast. Sources told the Herald on Sunday it had been rattled at how quickly Henry's show had eaten into its audience.
In February, Paul Henry edged ahead of Breakfast for the first time, attracting the majority of viewers in the 25-54 age bracket.
One source said: "TV3 is looking fresher with its Newshub overhaul, and TVNZ is under pressure to do something, particularly with Breakfast, which is really not doing well. It's amazing how quickly the Paul Henry Show has caught them."
Another source said Barry was "very comfortable" in the morning slot. She would give Breakfast a much-needed boost.
Barry is reportedly on close to $500,000 at TV3, and a source told the Herald on Sunday TVNZ would need to match that.
Breakfast's current hosts are Rawdon Christie and Nadine Chalmers-Ross, who has the job while Ali Pugh is on maternity leave.
TVNZ would not discuss the issue yesterday. There had been speculation Barry could join Peter Williams on the weekend news bulletins at One News, but it was thought TVNZ would not risk changing other high-performing shows, such as One News and Seven Sharp, too soon.
Barry was not talking yesterday, but when news of her resignation broke, she said she was looking forward to spending time with her family. She had spent 23 years with the company, the last 11 as a primetime newsreader.
Meanwhile, two names have emerged as frontrunners to replace Barry at TV3: former 3D host Samantha Hayes and the other current fill-in, Melissa Davies. Sources told the Herald on Sunday both were popular at TV3, but Hayes was likely to get the nod ahead of Davies.
Barry's TV3 co-host Mike McRoberts is also said to be unhappy at the network, but sources told the Herald on Sunday he was now in prime position.
McRoberts told Newshub he was saddened her departure meant the end of his television marriage but he had loved every minute.
"She is a world class, without peer, newsreader. She is very, very good and she does it so effortlessly."
He said he had no intention of quitting the network.
Barry's departure puts further pressure on MediaWorks' boss Mark Weldon, who has overseen a tumultuous year. Several shows have been canned and other high-profile departures include John Campbell, news boss Mark Jennings and 3D's Paula Penfold, who is married to McRoberts.
NBC deal overshadowed
Hilary Barry's departure will overshadow a major announcement for MediaWorks, expected on Tuesday. The Herald on Sunday understands the network will announce a joint venture with American broadcaster NBC.
The deal will reportedly see NBC take a controlling shareholding in Channel 4, which will be rebranded Bravo. The channel had been losing money and MediaWorks boss Mark Weldon was charged with finding a solution. It will be a busy week for Weldon, as a long-running transtasman court case gets under way in Wellington tomorrow.
The case is between NZX, and the developers of Clear, an Australian grain trading business.
Both sides are making multimillion-dollar claims against the other over the failure of the business, bought by NZX in 2009, when Weldon was boss at the exchange. He will be called as a witness.