Don Nash, a veteran NBC News executive who has led NBC’s “Today” through years of scorched-earth battle with rival ABC’s “Good Morning America,” is stepping down from his post as the show’s executive producer, NBC News said Wednesday.
A change in a news show’s top producer is not unusual when new talent is put in place in front of the camera. NBC News at the start of 2018 named Hoda Kotb to replace Matt Lauer as a co-anchor of the morning-news franchise, just weeks after Lauer was ousted from the program when NBC News discovered inappropriate workplace behavior. New producers were put in place at NBC’s “NBC Nightly News” after Lester Holt took over the anchor slot from Brian Williams in 2015 and at “Meet the Press” when Chuck Todd was named to take over from David Gregory.
Yet Nash is stepping down after NBC News said it would conduct an internal review of how it handled the Lauer imbroglio. “At the conclusion of the review we will share what we’ve learned, no matter how painful, and act on it,” said Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News Group, in a statement at the time.
In a memo to staff, Nash attributed his decision to leave to a simple desire to take a break from the morning grind. Working on a network morning-news show means altering normal routines and schedules: sleeping during prime evening hours when the rest of the world is awake and waking at wee moments of the morning when most of the surrounding populace is still tucked in bed. “For many years, I have had two families: the one at home, and everyone at ‘Today.'” said Nash. “The balance of my love for both of them has been out of whack for too long. The time has come for me to step away from ‘Today,’ and be a better dad to my two beautiful girls. They are what matter to me most.”
NBC News said Libby Leist was being promoted to executive producer of the first two hours of “Today,” the flagship part of the morning program. She had been senior producer of the show’s 7 a.m. hour. Jackie Levin continues as executive producer of “Megyn Kelly Today” at 9 a.m., and Tammy Filler remains executive producer of the 10 a.m. hour anchored by Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. Matt Carluccio will stay as executive producer of the show’s weekend broadcasts.
Nash spent nearly 30 years at “Today,” which has been on the air for 66 years. The show has experience a change of momentum since Kotb landed in the seat alongside that of Savannah Guthrie. The show has spent the last several weeks as TV’s most-watched morning show overall. Though it has led “GMA” among viewers between 25 and 54 – the demographic most coveted by advertisers – for months, the ABC competitor has been able to keep its bragging rights as the show toward which more Americans gravitate. Nash leaves having pushed “Today” to a new level.
Executives at both networks wonder whether or not the NBC program can maintain its status at such a competitive time in morning news. Cable shows like Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends, ” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and CNN’s “New Day” are snaring new eyeballs. “Today” is likely to benefit in coming weeks, however, when NBCUniversal’s mammoth, multi-network coverage of the Winter Olympics from PyeongChang, South Korea, is expected to lure larger audiences to its programming.
Nash took command of “Today” at a troubled moment for the program. Poor chemistry between Lauer and Ann Curry led to a change in anchors in June of 2012, and the transition was awkward. Curry teared up on camera in her on-screen farewell, making plain to viewers she wanted to stay. “Good Morning America” gained new momentum. Nash replaced the former “Today” executive producer, Jim Bell, who moved on to supervise Olympics coverage.
In an interview with Variety in 2014, Nash predicted “Today” would take back ground from its chief morning rival. “The viewers aren’t just going to come overnight. It’s going to take them a while to recognize that it’s time to come back,” he said. “We have built it, and now we just need the viewers to come. And they will.”
Since that time, “Today” has tried to delivery a more newsy and streamlined opening each day. The show no longer has a separate news reader, and some of the program’s lighter elements, like camera shots of the audience that has gathered outside its Manhattan studio and its quick-hit pop-culture news center, the “Orange Room,” now appear later on in the morning. Nash “He led the ‘Today’ team through many transitions and got the show back to number one,” said Lack, in a memo to staff. “He leaves with every aspect of the show on top and with a legacy he should be proud of. As you all know so well, among many other skills Don is one of the best live control room producers in the business. We’ve offered him a number of roles within NBC News and NBCUniversal, and we hope he’ll stay in the family.”