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Matt Lauer has quietly signed a new deal with NBC to keep him at "The Today Show" for two more years.
Maybe not so quietly: NBC gave the story to The New York Times yesterday, with quotes and terms included. To condense all those, quickly for you: He's the best in the business and he loves what he does, and this is for two more years, and no, we're not saying how much this is costing...Read more »
In a move almost certain to set off renewed speculation about where the "Today" show is going (and who's going there with it), the network just named Jamie Horowtiz senior vice president and general manager of the franchise. Horowitz is -- or was -- a very big deal at ESPN, probably the most successful TV brand in the world, where he launched many shows, and was a lion-tamer as well: He brought back Keith Olbermann, who presumably has been happy with the boss, now making the big move from Bristol, Connecticut to Manhattan.
The speculation? Oh, the usual stuff: Who will replace Matt Lauer, likely to leave at the end of his current contract? ("Likely" - but one never knows until one knows, and the ratings do appear to have stabilized, and with them, Matt...) Josh Elliott of course began his career at ESPN, and the advent of the Horowitz era is certain to set off some thinking that he might be here to bridge some sort of gap between sports - where Elliott is based now - and "Today." Of course, that may be "baseless" thinking... Elliott continues to dash any idea that he is destined for "Today."
But there's really one and only one job here -- to get "Today" back on top, and push "GMA" back to the place from whence it came (second). Horowitz certainly arrives on an interesting day, when NBCUniversal announced a $7-billion-plus multi-decade deal to air the Olympics; "Today" has long had a happy and symbiotic relationship with this enormous franchise...
Here's the top of the release:
Horowitz will lead the TODAY brand and drive greater integration and growth among all parts of the brand,...also explore new formats, such as extensions in digital, e-commerce, events and other opportunities to serve the audience beyond the day-to-day execution of the existing broadcast and digital platforms... "I am honored to join Deborah [Turness,NBC News president]'s team and help guide TODAY into the future," said Horowitz. "This is an exciting and invigorating opportunity, and I am humbled to work with one of the most indelible brands in television. I am also grateful to John Skipper and ESPN for the opportunities and support they have given me over the past eight years."
"Good Morning America's" Josh Elliott -- coveted by NBC longer than the Yankees had coveted Masahiro Tanaka -- is finally going to NBC: The official line: He's joining NBC Sports, but few really believe that's the final stop for the soon-to-be former "GMA" news anchor who will be replaced by Amy Robach.
Ben Sherwood, the ABC News chief, said this in a memo, also distributed to the press:
"As many of you know, we have been negotiating with Josh these past several months. In good faith, we worked hard to close a significant gap between our generous offer and his expectations. In the end, Josh felt he deserved a different deal and so he chose a new path. I want to thank Josh for his many contributions to GMA and ABC News. Later in the week, we will bid him farewell."
Elliott's an interesting play for all sorts of reasons, but pre-eminent among those is the possibility that he will someday, and sooner than later, replace Matt Lauer. Lauer was damaged in the wake of Ann Curry's ouster, and while "Today's" ratings have improved, Matt's have not, necessarily.
Ask anyone in an official capacity at NBC about who will one day replace Matt and the answer is (not yet officially, because this is not yet "official") Willie Geist.
The reasons for Geist are compelling: He's an excellent broadcaster and a very smart guy, who has written books and knows how to interview stars (in one segment) and brain surgeons (in the next).
But it's unclear whether he has -- to use the old phrase -- lit up the boards. NBC wants an electric personality to replace Matt (when his deal ends). Lauer's long and hugely successful run ends next year, and so does his (estimated) $25 million-per-year contract. So now let the babbling begin: Will Josh be the guy? (Per reports, in the New York Post about two weeks ago, Josh wanted $8 million to stay at ABC; ABC wanted to cough up half that amount. Hey, it's TV. What can I say?)
Don't be surprised to see him on "Today" when he joins up to talk about . . . sports. And who knows what else! He's a member of the "family" now. Is Elliott the "electric" personality that NBC hopes he will be? We'll all find out together -- but he was part of a team that toppled the longest winning streaks in morning TV history. Maybe that's "electric" enough.
Meanwhile, back to the Yankees analogy: NBC is deploying a strategy that George would admire. Pick apart the winning team until . . . it's winning no longer. Smart strategy, but an expensive one, too.
Congratulations are certainly in order -- double congratulations, in fact. "Today" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie announced at the top of this morning's edition of "Today" that she married longtime boyfriend, Mark Feldman, in her hometown of Tuscon over the weekend.
Then . . . beat, beat . . . this announcement: That she's also four months pregnant, and the couple are expecting their first child later this summer.
Big news indeed for both Guthrie and "Today," and interesting as well. Guthrie and the show in fact took about 20 minutes before announcing the pregnancy, probably an indication among all hands on deck that this was at the very least a bit awkward.
"Today" has for decades carefully stage-managed the family planning affairs of anchors, particularly women ones: The pregnancies of Jane Pauley and Katie Couric were big news, at least in the pages of places like People. "Today" wrote the book, so to speak, on linking both the sense of family off the air, and family on the air.
Guthrie, who has been engaged since May, has rewritten the ol' manual, however. By announcing both pregnancy and marriage -- though not in that order -- she and the show avoid a potentially awkward and distracting discussion, just as "Today" appears in the early stages of a long-awaited turnaround: When is, umm, Savannah getting married? Call it the "Murphy Brown" question, if you care to call it anything. Certainly times have changed and many if not most "Today" viewers could care less what Guthrie does with her private life. But . . . because the morning shows insist that you care to some degree -- hey, it's family! -- many more conservative viewers would have taken considerable umbrage to an unwed mother story line.
No, it's not 1992, and no, Dan Quayle isn't running as vice president again on the Bush 1 ticket. Still, some things never change. This happens to be one of those things.
And with that . . . congrats to both Guthrie and Feldman.
Meanwhile, check out both big announcements.