WEEKEND Today host Deb Knight is firming as the likely replacement for Lisa Wilkinson after Channel Nine executives failed to woo Georgie Gardner back to breakfast.
Nine boss Hugh Marks was personally involved in the negotiations with Gardner after she was identified as the best option to join Karl Stefanovic on the Today show couch.
But Gardner, who has two young children, told Marks the punishing hours had ruled her out.
The pre-dawn starts prompted the 47-year-old presenter to leave Today in 2014, after 12 years on the breakfast show, moving to read the weekend news and report occasionally for 60 Minutes.
Gardner's rejection leaves Knight, who has been filling in for Wilkinson since she left, as the frontrunner.
Despite the controversy surrounding Wilkinson's shock defection from Today to Channel Ten, her absence has had little impact on the program's viewership.
According to Nine, the show's ratings have stayed solid, with a marginal increase within the usual fluctuation for the program.
The dramatic departure of the popular presenter helped the program pull in 307,000 viewers nationally immediately after she left.
The news on Wilkinson's replacement comes as co-host Stefanovic eyes off a Sunshine Coast apartment, near close friend, former ironman Grant Kenny, at Alexandra Headland.
Stefanovic would spend at least one weekend a month in Queensland, which is the home state of girlfriend Jasmine Yarbrough.
The couple were trackside at Flemington Racecourse yesterday for Derby Day.