She was once the most-watched newsreader in the country but former One News presenter Judy Bailey has proven less popular with viewers than Hilary Barry as she returned to our screens this week.

Bailey filled in for Barry on TV3's Paul Henry morning show from Monday to Wednesday this week, much to the delight of those on social media.

But Nielsen ratings data shows the programme saw an average 11 per cent drop in viewer ratings over the past three days, compared to last week's ratings when Barry was on the show. Both weeks were during the school holiday period.

Yesterday saw the biggest drop in ratings, with 54,000 viewers tuning in between 7am and 8am, compared to 76,000 the previous week. That marks a 22.3 per cent decrease.

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Bailey was once the country's highest paid newsreader, earning $800,000 a year. Her salary became the subject of controversy when it became public, earning the ire of then-Prime Minister Helen Clark.

"If that is the sum it is an enormous amount of money for what I would estimate is about four minutes on air. If salaries of that magnitude are being paid, there had better be some damn good reasons," she said at the time.

TVNZ chose not to renew Bailey's contract in 2005, despite her popularity with viewers.

In 2006, Bailey defended her salary, telling Paul Holmes she was worth it.

Viewers were surprised to see the popular newsreader pop up on TV3 screens on Monday, leading to a flurry of social media activity.

- nzherald.co.nz