“I don’t think she is going to be able to travel,” said NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell today of skier Lindsey Vonn joining the network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics next month in Sochi, Russia. However, Vonn could show up on NBC in some form or another, Bell said. “We have been in discussions,” he said of Vonn, who had to drop out of the Games due to a knee injury. When pressed whether she would be on-air, Bell stoically replied “maybe.” Bell also noted during a call with reporters today that he wasn’t worried that the absence of the high-profile Vonn — a gold medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Games and now a pop culture staple — would lead to a lack of viewer interest in U.S. participants. “There are plenty of established stars to go round, like Shaun White,” he said. “And there are always the unknowns. No one knew the gymnasts where, but they became stars,” he added of the U.S.’ breakout darlings of the 2012 London Olympics.
The NBC morning show officially said goodbye this morning to executive producer Jim Bell, who is departing after seven seasons to focus on his Olympics duties for the network; he was exec producer of the London Olympics this summer, replacing Dick Ebersol. He presided over some bumpy times at Today, taking much of the heat for the ouster of Ann Curry as co-anchor this year and seeing a ratings slide that has eroded much of the show’s dominance over rival Good Morning America. His No. 2 Don Nash is taking over as executive producer, with Alexandra Wallace becoming the executive in charge. Here’s the cast and crew’s toast to Bell:
Jim Bell was executive producer of both NBCUniversal’s London Olympics coverage and NBC‘s morning show Today over the summer. He was replaced yesterday at Today after seven years amid flailing ratings and a widely perceived mishandling of Ann Curry’s ouster, with reports that he would land back at the NBC Olympics unit led by Gary Zenkel. Now he will settle in full-time at NBC Sports Group under chairman Mark Lazarus and have “editorial and creative control.” Here’s the full release:
NEW YORK – November 13, 2012 – Jim Bell, who served as the executive producer of the 2012 London Olympics, the most-watched event in U.S. television history, has been named the full-time Executive Producer of NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Olympic Games. Bell reports to NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, who made the announcement today.
NBC is shaking up the leadership at the Today show. Alexandra Wallace, SVP of NBC News, will be in charge of the four-hour program, The New York Times reports. The Times cites people at the network who described the plan on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced. She and a yet-to-be-named producer will succeed Jim Bell, who’s been in charge of the show since 2005. Bell was executive producer of last summer’s London Olympic games and reportedly will be returning to his roots at NBC Sports full time, according to TV Newser. Bell succeeded former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, who executive produced every Olympics from 1992 until his abrupt departure in May over a contractual dispute when he was replaced by Mark Lazarus. Bell spent 16 years with NBC Sports & Olympics and worked on every Olympic Games NBC has broadcast since 1992 in either sports (1992, 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004) or news (2006, 2008 and 2010). Bell won Emmys for his work on the 1992, 1996, 2000 & 2002 Olympics and a Peabody for NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Today has been more a soap opera than a morning-news program of late, and executive producer Jim Bell today finally addressed some of the drama. The best part of his comments to the New York Times is his contention that among the many reasons for Today ending its 16-year winning streak in the ratings to rival Good Morning America is that Today is a “more serious show”. When asked if he meant that GMA is more a tabloid-style program, he said, “Yes, that’s what I’m saying”. As for the ouster of Ann Curry after only a year as co-anchor, Bell said that decision was all his — and not anchor Matt Lauer’s, as had been rumored. “Hindsight is 20/20″, Bell said. “You can sit there and think this or that, but we’re comfortable with that decision (to make her anchor) and the one we’ve made now.”