Is this the big assignment NBC News was referencing when it denied a report it would not renew Ann Curry‘s pricey contract? The news division said today Curry will report from Bangui in the Central African Republic for tonight’s NBC Nightly News, on NBCNews.com, on Curry’s YouTube channel, and on tomorrow’s Today. The announcement comes a couple days after a report surfaced that NBC News would not renew Curry’s $12 million contract; Curry segued into that contract after she exited as co-anchor of the network’s morning infotainment series, which has been trying to recover from the image problem it created ever since. At the start of this week, NBC News unveiled some of its plans to get Today back on its feet, including a new “Rise to Shine” tagline to help viewers forget its bungled dumping of Curry.
2014 is getting off to a busy start for NBC News. No sooner does the division announce its priority is getting Today back up on its feet with a new tagline “Rise to Shine” that will help viewers forget its bungled dumping of show co-anchor Ann Curry, than a report surfaces that NBC News will not renew Curry’s $12 million contract — the one she got when she was shoved off Today. The network has denied the Radar report, noting that Curry has been given an actual big assignment which, presumably, is what happens when you pay someone $12 mil a year.
Meanwhile, the division’s Sunday Beltway show Meet The Press got its fourth quarter numbers, and they’re the franchise’s worst in its history in the news demo. MTP also suffered its smallest fourth-quarter total-viewer crowd since ’91. This news forced the news division to have to insist to Politico that it has no plans to replace anchor David Gregory, because the site’s media columnist had suggested just that.
And MSNBC has had to refute a report in National Review that Rachel Maddow dictates the cable news network’s editorial direction and has a lot to say about personnel decisions. This after MSNBC anchors Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin got the hook over separate incendiary comments, and a teary apology by Melissa Harris-Perry for an episode of her program in which she and a bunch of comics poked fun at little black grandson Kieran sitting on Mitt Romney’s knee in the family’s Christmas photo.
NBC began its Today show Olympics walk-up this morning with a strategically timed piece in The New York Times about a Comcast-wide ad blitz for a new show tagline “Rise to Shine”. It’s part of a big push to get Today back on top in the morning infotainment show ratings. In the article, NBC noted that Today, which lost its ratings crown to ABC’s Good Morning America some time ago, has been chipping away at GMA’s lead, even beating its rival by 18,000 in the news demo the week of December 16 (aka The Week GMA Sent Robin Roberts to the Vatican). The head of NBC News research spoke passionately about Matt Lauer‘s importance to the show’s ratings resuscitation, and Matt himself discussed taking selfies when you think you’re looking good, not when you’re looking bad.
GMA responded this morning with a news release announcing that it won all four quarters of 2013, including its largest fourth-quarter total-viewer lead over Today in more than 22 years, and its biggest demo lead over Today in 19 years (371,000 viewers) during the final full week of the calendar year.
Oh, and Robin Roberts come out on GMA this morning — taking some of the wind out of Today’s carefully orchestrated “Rise to Shine”.
It’s been more than 14 months since Ann Curry’s unceremonious exit from NBC’s Today, and now Matt Lauer is lashing out at the way the situation was handled in the media. The morning show’s longtime anchor hurls some verbal salvos in a new magazine interview. “The way the media treated what happened with Ann Curry was a disappointing learning experience,” he told Esquire. “I was disappointed by the laziness of the media, the willingness to read a rumor, repeat that rumor, and treat it as a fact.” Even though the show’s then-EP Jim Bell defended Curry’s ouster, several outlets cited Lauer as the heavy. And the show’s continued ratings slide even led to NBC brass reaching out to CNN’s Anderson Cooper to replace him during the summer. That came weeks after Lauer reportedly offered to resign amid the Curry fallout. But back to the 16-year Today host’s latest words: “What were my options?” he said about the media coverage. “Does anyone want to see a person who’s making the money that the newspapers say I’m making complaining, ‘Woe is me, my life is terrible, and people are being unfair’? No one would’ve had any patience for that. I wouldn’t have any patience for that. So you just shut up and go about doing your job.”
Related: Matt …
In her first interaction with Matt Lauer since her ouster from NBC’s Today show in June, Ann Curry introduced her report on Australian photographer Adam Pretty during the show’s second hour. But the former co-host did not banter with Lauer or anyone else on the Today team. There was a lot of talk at the time of her departure about the anchor-at-large Curry covering the Olympics for Today, but her return on the 14th day of the Games came considerably later than expected. Lauer said “nice to see you” at the beginning of the segment and “good to see you” at the end but Curry did not exactly reply in kind. You can watch below Curry’s full video on Pretty, who is photographing his fifth Summer Olympics. Curry, whose initial return to work was reporting on the Colorado movie theater shootings, also is expected to appear during coverage of Sunday’s closing ceremonies.
SATURDAY, 2ND UPDATE: Ann Curry did not co-host, according to some people who watched the Today show this morning, even though NBC said she would. But, yes, she is reporting from Aurora and contributed to a number of stories, following her Dateline anchoring last night..
FRIDAY PM UPDATE: Less than a month after she departed NBC’s daily morning show, Ann Curry will co-host the Today show with her replacement Savannah Guthrie. Both are traveling to Aurora to report on the shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. They will co-anchor Saturday and Sunday.
The expected news came this morning, one day after Ann Curry’s tearful goodbye on Today. Savannah Guthrie‘s upgrade is effective immediately, putting her on the NBC morning show’s anchor team of Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Natalie Morales. The group’s first official show together is July 9. “In just a few short years Savannah has become a standout member of the news division as well as the ultimate team player”, NBC News president Steve Capus said in the release today. “She’s anchored for Brian on NBC Nightly News, moderated for David on Meet The Press, co-hosted the 9 a.m. hour of Today, reported for Rock Center and Dateline, and provided legal insights in our Supreme Court Special Reports – and that was all within the last week! She’s got an undeniable range, and she’s earned the trust of the news community, her colleagues and our viewers alike”. Guthrie joined Today in June 2011 as co-host of the third hour and chief legal correspondent. She had been NBC News White House Correspondent from December 2008 to June 2011 and served as co-host of MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown from January 2010 to June 2011. She came to NBC from CourtTV.
In the wake of Ann Curry’s tearful goodbye this morning on Today, speculation about her replacement has escalated. Some news outlets are saying that Savannah Guthrie will be sitting in Curry’s chair next to Matt Lauer tomorrow morning, but that isn’t unusual. Curry was already scheduled to be off Friday and Guthrie has often filled in for her in the past. And there were conflicting reports about the timing of any announcement by NBC or whether there would be one later this summer.
“This is not as I expected to ever leave this couch after 15 years,” the Today co-host said this morning, when she announced today is her last day as a regular co-host on the NBC morning show. “They’re giving me some fancy new titles which essentially mean I’m going to get tickets to every big story we want to cover.” She now becomes Anchor at Large and National and International Correspondent for NBC News. She’ll cover global stories, anchor primetime specials and report for Today, Nightly News, Rock Center, Dateline and MSNBC, as well as digital properties.
Ann Curry will bid viewers adieux this morning from her spot as co-host of NBC’s Today show, she told USA Today. “I’m going to have to tell our viewers. That’s what makes me more emotional than anything. I don’t want to leave them,” Curry said. “I love them. And I will really miss them.” Curry segues to a new multiyear contract with the network leading a seven-person team covering stories for NBC Nightly News, Dateline, Rock Center and even Today plus filling in occasionally as anchor on Nightly News and other telecasts. Even though viewing her new gig as a dream job, the public process of her exit from Today has hurt, she said. Defensive at the suggestion that she lacked chemistry with Matt Lauer, she said “you know, Matt and I have had great on-air chemistry for 14 years, been part of the No. 1 winning team for a history-making number of years. That said, I just finished my freshman year as co-host. In every single co-host’s first year, there have been kinks to be worked out, and perhaps I deserve as much blame for that as anyone.”
UPDATE, 4:15 PM: The NY Times is now reporting that Curry will announce her departure from the show tomorrow morning. It did not say whether Thursday will also be her last day.
PREVIOUS, 12:18 PM: Jim Bell is executive producer of NBC’s Today show and also of NBC’s Olympics coverage. He wore his latter hat this morning in a conference call with reporters about NBCUniversal’s plans for the London Summer Games next month. But he did get a question about how he’s dealing with the turmoil at the morning show, which includes Ann Curry reportedly near to being replaced as co-anchor by current third-hour anchor Savannah Guthrie. “[The Olympics and Today] are great brands but have had ups and downs,” Bell said on the call, before adding that discussing the morning show “isn’t the purpose of this call”. Last week, reports surfaced that NBC execs are negotiating in secret on plans to replace Curry with Guthrie — this after the show saw its streak of ratings wins come to an end after 852 weeks. Curry succeeded Meredith Vieira last year. Today, the NY Times reported that Guthrie was officially offered the co-host gig and is Bell’s top choice. Broadcasting & Cable reported that an informal poll of NBC affiliates revealed that they too are being kept in the dark about Today‘s plans — though a preference for Curry to return …
NBC executives are negotiating in secret on plans to replace Ann Curry on the Today show, the New York Times reports. Curry’s future as co-host has been in doubt for some time, especially after ABC’s Good Morning America knocked NBC’s iconic show from its longtime perch atop the ratings. Even before GMA’s big score, some at NBC were unhappy with her co-hosting style. Matt Lauer recently signed a new deal but NBC executives began discussions with Curry about moving her into a different job at the network. She became co-anchor last year, succeeding Meredith Viera after some 14 years in other roles on Today. Those negotiations are expected to be resolved before NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage begins. As for Curry’s replacement, the name that has been most talked about is Savannah Guthrie, who co-hosts the third hour of Today.