I am reliably told that NBC and Matt Lauer are closing in on a deal that will pay him an estimated $25 million per year over the course of a multiyear deal, possibly as many as three, but more likely two.
NBC declined to comment.
According to an industry source, this deal, I am further told, could be announced soon, though I would bet that it will be unveiled by the May upfronts -- capping, in fact, what are expected to be the most upbeat upfronts at NBC in years, with a resurgent primetime -- umm, I mean "The Voice" -- and a pair of smart newcomers in "Smash" and "Awake."
But this deal, which is expected to happen, is huge, needless to say. Foremost, it keeps the ship steady, and with Matt aboard, "GMA's" granular assault on the show's ratings supremacy remains just that -- granular. Moreover, keeping Matt means any sort of uncertainty is erased by the time the Olympics roll around: Both "Today" and the Os have a richly symbiotic relationship, and to imperil that at this point would be detrimental to new owner Comcast.
Ah yes, Comcast -- which surely has had dark thoughts in the middle of the night about this expensive not-quite-albatross it has bought: With Matt retained, the Yankees have their captain and another shot at the pennant.
Enough with my mixed metaphors and hyperbole -- and for that I sincerely apologize.
Now, to that $25 million payday: Not as big deal a deal as it seems (I kid) but about an $8 million bump for Matt. This is baseball money, but more to the point, this is syndication money. This deal will keep Matt away from the world that ultimately seems to lure all major talk talent; and when you consider that someone like Judge Judy makes well north of $50 million per year, then surely Matt's value is on equal par, right? In fact, it's of much greater value. Along with ESPN's "SportsCenter," "Today" is the richest franchise on TV, and among the most important.
A final word on Ryan Seacrest: I'm not entirely sure this means he is not part of the future either in some capacity. But the pending Matt deal does suggest that those early conversations were a feint by NBC and nothing more.