Bolt, who is in his fourth year as host of The Bolt Report, will join Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar at the desk after Pickering departs next week.
The surprise move is designed to make the show more ‘watercooler’ and help lift TEN’s primetime ratings share, and follows Bolt’s Sunday morning show being quietly extended from 30 to 60 minutes this year.
Charlie Pickering announced his departure earlier this month but while no permanent replacement was announced, TV Tonight understands testing has been underway at TEN’s Como building in South Yarra.
A TEN insider said, “Love him or loathe him, Andrew Bolt gets people talking and right now TEN realises that’s just what they need. Steve Price has worked well for the show so Bolter is the next logical step. It will all make sense after the Murdoch camp buys the network for a song.”
Roving Productions is understood to have agreed to more coverage of the Abbott government policies and less talk on climate change, while asylum seeker issues are off the table unless the story can elicit some tears from Carrie Bickmore -considered by producers to be ‘ratings gold.’
Bolt was coaxed into joining the show in order to take on “that reckless, unapologetic ABC”, before realising the public broadcaster actually out-rates Network TEN.
Meanwhile The Project is also expected to move back to a 6pm start to allow MasterChef to screen at 7pm. Sources suggest Programming never wanted to move its Reality shows to 7:30pm in the first place, but it was a decision made by an executive who was on pain killers at the time.
However the moves have also caused rumblings within The Project office, with a petition set to unroll at change.org and Peter Helliar threatening to start telling ‘Dad’ jokes in protest. Carrie Bickmore was more upbeat about the changes, overheard telling colleagues, “You think you got problems? I’m hosting a Dance show on shopping night! Compared to those ratings this show is practically Game of Thrones!”
TEN declined to comment on the details, simply saying, “The Project is in the top 15 shows for 13-29 year olds.
“We are in this for the long haul. “