Fallout from the ratings decline of “Today” is officially under way at NBC.
With “Today” no longer sitting atop the ayem morning competition race, exec producer Jim Bell has been replaced and named exec producer of the Peacock’s Olympics unit. Shifting from news to the sports division, Bell will report to NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus.
According to reports, replacing Bell at “Today” will be NBC News senior VP Alexandra Wallace. She has been at the Peacock since 2005 and works closely with news division topper Steve Capus.
Bell, who had been at the helm of “Today” since 2005, was blamed by some for “Today” losing its 16-year grip to ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the spring as TV’s No. 1 morning show. The four-hour “Today” is the most profitable show on NBC, annually generating hundreds of millions of dollars for the network.
While ratings for “Today” had begun to slide before Ann Curry took over for Meredith Vieira on the anchor desk in June 2011, the downward trend accelerated with Curry front and center. Immediately there was speculation that there was an uneasy on-set relationship between Curry and co-host Matt Lauer that made audiences uncomfortable.
After much hullabaloo, Curry was replaced after only a year on the job by Savannah Guthrie. However, “Today” has consistently lagged “GMA” in ratings since the shuffle.
Bell will remain busy with the Olympics at NBC. The network has rights to the Games through 2020, paying just above $4.3 billion for the privilege.
The most recent London Olympics were a huge ratings success. In addition, comedy “Go On” received a sneak preview during the 17-night Games and reality competition series “The Voice” was promoted heavily, and both have been key to NBC’s primetime resurgence this fall. NBC came out financially even after many were expecting a loss, given the considerable production expenses.
“There is no doubt that Jim is the right person to be our Olympic production leader into the future,” said Lazarus. “Jim has worked with the best in the Olympic television world, and we’re excited to have him join us as the fulltime executive producer.”