The same day ABC’s Good Morning America officially said so long to news anchor Josh Elliott, it announced it had delivered its most watched quarter in more than 22 years in first quarter 2014. The show also celebrated its …
Josh Elliott Says NBC Sports Offer Is Dream Job, Denies He’s Being Groomed To Replace Matt Lauer On ‘Today’
Departing Good Morning America news anchor Josh Elliott says he has not personally had any discussions about working on NBC’s Today, that he hopes co-anchor Matt Lauer will still be at Today “when I step away from this gig 30 years down the road,” and that he loves ABC News chief Ben Sherwood deeply and passionately for making him news anchor at GMA. Elliott was on the phone with reporters to discuss this week’s worst kept TV industry secret — Elliott has jumped ship, abandoning GMA to join NBC Sports Group.
NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus said Elliott would perform “a mix” of reporting and anchoring, including a presence in the division’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby, NFL football, the Super Bowl and the Winter and Summer Olympics, to which NBC has broadcast rights through 2020. “One of the beauties of this budding and new relationship,” Lazarus said, is that Elliott fits in well with the existing team, adding, “we’ve still got plenty of time to sort out” details of his role.
Elliott was asked loads of questions about his departure from GMA; he “denied categorically” press reports about the ensemble cast’s jealousy over Robin Roberts’ lucrative contract, insisting he loved them all and wished them the best. “I owe everything to the folks at Disney” he said. “They’re the ones who put me on the air nine years ago.’ I have nothing but gratitude for them” he said speaking “to my very deep and abiding important relationship I have with [ABC News chief] Ben Sherwood.”
UPDATED: Michael Strahan, one half of Live! With Kelly & Michael, also soon will be seen on ABC‘s morning infotainment program Good Morning America. Strahan will continue to co-host his daytime talker with Kelly Ripa. Ripa also had been approached about joining GMA, but she declined, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Talks with Strahan began about a month ago, which predates news anchor Josh Elliott’s decision to depart GMA, announced over the weekend. Expect to see Strahan on GMA a couple days a week, initially. Elliott, formerly of ESPN, left the show to join NBC Sports. The addition of Strahan gives GMA an anchor with a sports background to take over that responsibility from Elliott — Strahan having spent 15 years playing for the New York Giants.
Live! With Kelly & Michael is having its best season in seven years, ratings-wise, averaging nearly 4 million viewers — up 13% versus same time last season.
UPDATE, 6:40 AM: GMA gang this morning told viewers that Josh Elliott is leaving the show to go to work for NBC Sports, marking the second successful poaching of a GMA cast member by NBCU, and that he would be replaced as news anchor by Amy Robach, who was on the scene – Elliott himself was on “vacation.” Meanwhile, over at NBC, Al Roker publicly congratulated Elliot, via Twitter, for his “conscious uncoupling” from GMA/ABC. Watch here:
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UPDATE, 6:30 AM: Josh Elliott‘s former Good Morning America colleague Sam Champion weighed in this morning on Elliott’s announced exit from the ABC morning infotainment show to go to work for NBC Sports. Champion, who was also poached by NBCU and now works at The Weather Channel, called it “a great opportunity for Josh’s heart,” adding, “I know that fans of GMA are not loving it.” Watch here:
PREVIOUS, SUNDAY PM: After an intense negotiation with ABC News, Good Morning America news anchor Josh Elliott is leaving the network for NBC Sports. ABC News wasted no time in announcing his replacement: Amy Robach, who has been part of the GMA team for some time, including filling in for Robin Roberts at various moments when she was out for medical reasons. Elliott, who had been making about $1.2 million salary at GMA, turned down an offer to stay with the show for $4-$5 million. After his fellow anchor Lara Spencer nailed down a lucrative multiyear contract Thursday, Elliott raised his ask to $10 million a year. With Elliott, NBC is getting a strong sports guy — a next generation Bob Costas — who previously worked at ESPN. Per the terms of Elliott’s exit, he cannot appear on NBC’s Today for six months according to people familiar with the situation. Elliott is the second member of the ensemble team that put GMA in first place in the morning show ratings race, and to depart for an NBCUniversal property. In December, NBCU successfully poached longtime GMA weatherman Sam Champion who is now a bigwig at their Weather Channel. In much the same way they did today, ABC announced Champion’s replacement, Ginger Zee, minutes after it was reported that he was leaving. In the wake of Champion’s departure, GMA has scored some of its highest ratings ever.
ABC News’ Good Morning America has signed Lara Spencer to a new contract, leaving Josh Elliott the lone holdout among GMA cast members whose contracts are coming up now, as the morning infotainment show gets buffeted by competitor NBC. That NBC campaign reportedly includes talk with Elliott — who came to GMA from ABC parent Disney’s ESPN — about working for NBC in both news and sports, a sort of next-generation Bob Costas. Similarly, NBC poached GMA weatherman Sam Champion late last year; Champion, who had been with GMA since 2006, left to join NBCUniversal’s The Weather Channel as host of its new morning flagship show, and to become the channel’s managing editor.
Elliott, whose paycheck currently is in the $1.2 million range, is said to be seeking north of $8 million a year — a more than 500% pay hike. According to one industry insider, with Robin Roberts re-signed and now Spencer (George Stephanopoulos’s contract runs through the end of 2014, so he’s not part of this flurry), ABC News may have put a time ultimatum on the table with Elliott, though others say no. Regardless, there’s not much time left what with Elliott having less than four weeks left on his current deal.
So far, the blow-by-blow media coverage of the near-simultaneous contract talks with four of GMA’s five pieces of on-air talent, and reports of jealousy over Robert’s $14 million-ish deal has not dinged GMA’s one-big-happy-family image to a degree that impacts viewing, in the way similar media reports of internecine disharmony did to Today, reaching a fevered pitch around the time of the cringe-inducing denouement of Operation Bambi – aka the ouster of a weepy Ann Curry – in June 2012:
Even after Champion’s departure, for instance, GMA last week delivered its biggest overall audience since Nielsen electronic records began and its best news-demo delivery in eight years. Still it’s considered no coincidence that GMA added Elliott and Spencer to the lineup about a year before GMA eclipsed Today in the ratings. This puts Elliott in a good position, though he and ABC News are said to still be far apart on price, with the network offering about half his asking price — quite a spread. (For comparison sake, GMA’s George Stephanopoulos reportedly is paid about $6 million a year; his contract runs through this calendar year.)