October 20, 2021

NBC Expected to Pick Curry as ‘Today’ Co-Host

The network is expected to hold a news conference Monday morning to announce that Ann Curry will succeed Meredith Vieira as the co-host of “Today,” the sprawling morning show that Ms. Vieira and Matt Lauer have anchored for five years. Ms. Curry is likely to take Ms. Vieira’s seat in June, according to people with direct knowledge of the appointment who also described plans for the news conference.

NBC will reveal that Natalie Morales, a 9 a.m. anchor of “Today,” will replace Ms. Curry as the news anchor, and Savannah Guthrie, a White House correspondent and MSNBC anchor, will become the 9 a.m. anchor.

Ms. Vieira’s decision to leave was entirely her own, by all accounts.

Ms. Curry, who has been the news anchor on “Today” for 14 years, is well known and well liked by viewers. NBC executives and outsiders with experience in morning television see the shift as both logical for the show and to be expected by its big audience. But they agree that any change in the familiar cast of “Today” carries risk.

The changes at “Today” are occurring as there is unusual upheaval across the news landscape. Last week, Katie Couric, who left “Today” five years ago to become the evening news anchor at CBS, announced her intention to leave that program as her contract with the network ends next month. Early this week, CBS is poised to announce that Scott Pelley, a correspondent on “60 Minutes,” will succeed her. Another anchor, Erin Burnett of CNBC, announced plans last week to join CNN.

The changes at “Today” carry so much significance because the show is far and away the top profit maker in a network news business that is financially pressed on multiple fronts. “Something around $200 million a year in profit is a good estimate,” said one veteran executive associated with the show. The executive, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the changes at “Today” were not yet official.

No other news show approaches that profit figure. NBC has essentially turned “Today” into its morning fortress, expanding it to four hours, twice as long as its competitors.

Those competitors at ABC and CBS have made personnel changes in recent years, seeking a slice of “Today’s” bountiful profits should it lose ground. And they are watching this spring’s transition carefully. But to date “Today” has been the most impregnable show in television history, with a ratings winning streak that stretches 800 consecutive weeks.

Even a minor dip in the dominance of “Today” grabs outsize attention, as did last week’s news that ABC’s “Good Morning America” had cut “Today’s” usual lead of some 800,000 viewers to fewer than 600,000 for one week.

“Today” has maintained its pre-eminence through a skillful series of transitions from its established stars to new hosts. Now that is in new hands: Vieira-to-Curry is the first big talent transition for Comcast to manage since it took over NBC in January.

When Ms. Couric left five years ago, NBC went outside the “Today” cast and the news division’s staff to hire Ms. Vieira, a former CBS News correspondent who had become the host of ABC’s daytime talk hit, “The View.”

The move proved successful, though it struck some of the show’s regular viewers as an obvious slight to Ms. Curry, who had put in more than a decade and seemed to be the next co-host in waiting. Ms. Curry and her agent expressed unhappiness at the time, the veteran NBC executive said, and she had to be convinced that she was still held in high regard at the network.

She agreed to stay and set about to solidify her news profile on the show by making numerous trips to sites of breaking news, often to scenes of natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti last year, or other locations struck by tragedy, like Darfur, Pakistan, Syria and Kosovo.

“My dream has been to be a journalist of our time,” she told graduates at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., last year. “My aim is to reveal the truth about war, genocide, crimes against humanity and other human suffering.”

Tom Touchet, who was the executive producer of “Today” from 2002 to 2005, said of Ms. Curry, “She is as good and caring off-air as she appears to be on-air. That’s a rare, special quality.”

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Media Decoder: Couric Confirms Departure From CBS

3:43 p.m. | Updated | In a profile posted Tuesday on the Web site for People Magazine, Katie Couric confirms what has been widely reported for weeks: that she will leave her job as the anchor of the CBS Evening News.

“In making the decision to move on, I know the Evening News will be in great hands, but I am excited about the future,” she told the magazine. Her five-year contract ends in June.

CBS issued a terse statement Tuesday afternoon that said, “There’s a lot to be proud of during Katie Couric’s time at Evening News. CBS News, like Katie herself, is looking forward to the next chapter.”

CBS is expected to name Scott Pelley the new anchor of the “CBS Evening News” next week.

The profile in People does not include details about Ms. Couric’s future plans, but they too have been the subject of considerable informed comment in recent months. Several people close to Ms. Couric have confirmed that she intends to accept an offer to start up a daily syndicated talk show, most likely to start in the fall of 2012.

Those plans seem to be shifting away from either CBS or NBC and toward a suitor that had been earlier been considered a dark horse: ABC.

A deal for a syndicated show is expected be accompanied by regular work for a network news organization, which is why only CBS, NBC, and ABC have been among the serious suitors to land the syndicated show. The syndication divisions of all three networks have held negotiations with Ms. Couric and her representatives and for some time the speculation centered on her remaining at CBS, with a part-time role on that network’s newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”

NBC was also known to be bidding to land the show, which potentially could have included that network’s most valuable news employee, Matt Lauer, the anchor of the “Today” show.

ABC had been on the fringes of the talks earlier. But circumstances have changed in recent days, according to representatives of Ms. Couric. The Web site of TV Guide Magazine reported Tuesday that CBS sources predicted she would now land at ABC.

One representative of Ms. Couric said Tuesday that no deal has been agreed to with any network but acknowledged a shift toward ABC, saying, “ABC is a contender.”

CBS, meanwhile, seems to be trying to distance itself from the situation in case Ms. Couric moves in a different direction. One of Ms. Couric’s friends said that CBS was beginning to be concerned that despite what that network considers a very strong offer, she might decide on one of the other possibilities offered to her.

ABC would have the advantage of having owned the local-station home of Oprah Winfrey during her long run in syndication. Ms. Winfrey’s coming departure has seemingly opened the way for Ms. Couric and other hosts to mount talk shows.

ABC News also could provide Ms. Couric with access to its newsgathering sources as well as programs on which she could appear, like “20/20” and “Nightline.”

At the same time, interest in concluding a deal with NBC, her former home when she was host of “Today,” has waned, according to the representative of Ms. Couric, who said “They are not a front-runner.”

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