Channel Nine have axed the NRL Footy Show after 23 years on air – the latest controversial move by the free-to-air network.
The network informed Australian TV’s longest serving host, Paul Vautin, the show would not see 2018 while he was on holiday overseas, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Nine are looking to revamp their rugby league lineup to reflect the dwindling ratings of the program, which has seen viewers decline from a weekly audience of nearly 400,000 in the mid 2000s to an average of barely 80,000 this year.
The new scheduling is set to revolve around rising star Erin Molan, who is set to receive her own one-hour program.
The cancellation comes in the wake of Lisa Wilkinson being let go from the Today show after hosting the popular morning show for 10 years.
The popular sports show, which launched the careers of Vautin, Beau Ryan and Matthew Johns, has won a record 11 Logie Awards for Best Sports Program.
It is making way for a new lineup of NRL shows led by Molan, directly opposing Fox Sports’ Sunday-Monday-Thursday schedule fronted by former-Nine employee Yvonne Sampson.
The Monday night program is expected to reflect the more analytical approaches of similar programs on their News Corp rivals like NRL 360.
Nine will be showing 23 Thursday night games from next season, which helped executives make the decision to cut the Footy Show.
The costs of producing a live sporting event as well as a two hour sports variety program on the same night was reportedly the driving force behind the decision.
Molan and Vautin’s contracts run out at the end of next year, with the latter expected to feature more prominently in the commentators box.
Ryan’s deal ends in 2018, and his involvement in the new lineup is yet to be confirmed.
The show has seen a steady decline in viewership over the past decade as the show lost popular co-hosts Peter Sterling and Matthew Johns.
Popular segments including Anti-Ads, the Daredevil Duds and Reg Reagan drove huge numbers for Nine and saw it win four-consecutive Logie Awards from 2004 to 2007.
Johns was sacked by the network in shame after a group-sex scandal that threatened his media career.
He began a short-lived sports show directly opposite the Footy Show on Channel Seven, before finding a permanent home on Fox Sports, where his Monday show will now face direct competition from his former employer.
Sterling also hosts his own show on the pay TV network, but still works for Nine as a commentator.
1994: Show begins after success of AFL version of the format. Paul Vautin and Peter Sterling were the first hosts
2001: Former Newcastle Knights captain Paul Harrogan joined the show as a co-host after winning a Survivor-style competition
2003: Popular guest Matthew Johns becomes the fourth member of the panel on the back of the success of his Reg Reagan skits
2005: Declining ratings and heavy media criticism saw Rebecca Wilson join the show as a co-host, despite opposition from Sterling and Vautin. Wilson lasted only one show
2007: Peter Sterling quits the show to concentrate solely on commentary
2009: Andrew Voss replaces Harrogan who departed the show. Johns was sacked as a result of his involvement in a group sex scandal
2010: Sterling returns after a three-year hiatus alongside former players Darryl Brohman and Wendell Sailor
2011: Voss was removed as co-host after he made comments about the likeness of a statue of Ray Warren unveiled in his hometown of Junee. Sailor and Sterling depart
2012: Former Australian cricketer and Channel Nine commentator Michael Slater joins Vautin as co-host
2015: Slater steps down from the show with Beau Ryan and Erin Molan becoming full-time hosts
2017: Show is cancelled after 23 years on the Nine Network