The team on NBC’s venerable “Today” show is going to be the one in place for weeks to come, according to the top executive of the company’s NBC News unit.
In response to a whirl of rumors surrounding the potential ouster of one or more of the members of the current morning-show team that sprouted after NBC News ousted an executive who was supposed to remake the program, NBC News president Deborah Turness issued a statement: “NBC wants to be absolutely clear: The rumors are wrong — period. This is the team we are committed to. And this is the team that our viewers turn to in the morning.”
Turness’ comments come after a slew of reports suggesting that Jamie Horowitz, a former ESPN executive who had been hired to rework the NBC morning-show franchise, ruffled staffers’ feathers since his arrival in September. According to three people familiar with the program, Horowitz had been holding meetings with current and former “Today” staffers and intimated that he was willing to move anchors and producers around to give the show a new look. NBC ousted Horowitz on Monday evening, with people familiar with the program citing “destabilizing” tactics that would pit one employee or one anchor against another.
“NBC’s ‘Today’ has the best anchor team in morning television. The entire ‘Today’ show anchor team — Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Carson Daly, Tamron Hall, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb — are incredibly talented, valued and have our support,” Turness said in the statement. Morales and Hall were among those thrown into competition with one another, according to press reports.
Horowitz’s departure increases the spotlight on the inner workings of the rise-and-shine mainstay, which has been on the air since 1952. “Today” ruled the morning-show roost for 16 years, only to cede its first-place ranking to rival ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 2012 amidst on-set awkwardness involving the ouster of former co-anchor Ann Curry. Since that time, NBC has enlisted Guthrie as co-anchor, added Daly and a social-media element to the show’s first two hours and re-signed Lauer.
“Good Morning America” has maintained its momentum. The ABC program leads “Today” by 774,000 total viewers season to date as of the week of Nov. 3; by 203,000 adults between 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming; and by 29,000 viewers between 18 and 49, all according to Nieslen.
Under Turness, NBC News has reworked “Today,” choosing to focus on harder news in the show’s first hour, then pivot to lighter fare as the morning moves on. The show recently underwent a rebranding of sorts that places an emphasis on giving viewers news, information and a suggestion of hope, and moves the program away from coverage of tabloid-y subjects like lurid crime and court trials.
NBC’s backing may not be the final word in this morning-show drama. As former “Meet the Press” host David Gregory began to come under fire last spring due to sagging ratings, Turness issued a memo to staffers saying, “I wanted to reach out to reiterate my support for the show and for David, now and into the future, as we work together to evolve the format.” Gregory stepped down from his position in August as NBC replaced him with Chuck Todd.