NBC News has found a new executive to lead its venerable “Today” morning franchise into tomorrow.
Noah Oppenheim, a former executive producer at MSNBC who worked at “Today” in the middle of the last decade, is the new overseer of the second-place morning program, and will carry a large burden on his shoulders: He’s charged with pushing the program back to the number-one spot it ceded to ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Oppenheim is in some ways a mirror of Ben Sherwood, the one time “Good Morning America” producer who left that show to try his hand at creative endeavors and then returned to the fold as president of ABC News and boosted that program past its competitor. Whether Oppenheim can emulate Sherwood’s success remains to be seen. Sherwood’s facility at ABC News has sent his career rocketing: He will soon succeed Anne Sweeney as the head of all non-sports networks at Walt Disney.
Don Nash, the producer who oversees “Today” on TV, retains his duties. Oppenheim would have responsibility for guiding the overall franchise, including its digital properties.
He will take a position originally held by Jamie Horowitz, a former ESPN executive who was pushed out from NBC shortly after arriving after ruffling feathers internally with a host of ideas that would have radically changed “Today” and, perhaps, some of the people who host it.
In a memo, NBC News president Deborah Turness said Oppenheim’s would bring “an insider’s and outsider’s perspective to the role, and his breadth of experience spans both hard news and entertainment.” The producer has performed stints at “Hardball With Chris Matthews” and “Scarborough Country,” the show Joe Scarborough hosted before tackling “Morning Joe.” Oppenheim’s also worked at production shop Reveille, where he headed unscripted and digital projects.
NBC’s announcement comes as the network announced the departure earlier this week of Ann Curry, the former “Today” host whose performance as co-anchor rankled the show’s top producers. The way the network handled the situation — dispatching Curry with an awkward and tearful onscreen farewell that rallied viewers to her cause — is seen as a root cause of the program’s fall in the ratings.
Since that time, NBC News has worked to bolster “Today,” hoping that a hard-news focus in the show’s 7 a.m. hour and the re-signing of longtime anchor Matt Lauer will bring viewers back to its screens in the morning.
NBC did not offer a date when Oppenheim might start.