Lauer was NBC News’ $25 million man and the face of the most prominent and profitable morning news show. It’s hard to find another person who can make a frittata on camera before seamlessly transitioning to a sit-down interview with presidents or world leaders. Over Lauer’s 20 years on the show, he had developed great versatility in delivering hard and soft news.
Here’s a look at the men and women that NBC News may consider to fill Lauer’s co-anchor slot on the flagship 7 a.m.-9 a.m. broadcast opposite Savannah Guthrie.
Pros: He offers some reporting heft, having covered school shootings and political conventions, but also is a familiar face in the “Today” orbit thanks to his role anchoring the Saturday edition.
Cons: Melvin is a perfectly pleasant on-air presence, but he doesn’t exactly exude excitement.
Verdict: After the Lauer implosion, the safe choice might be the smartest option.
Pros: She’s given voice to sexual harassment victims by boldly speaking out against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Talking about sexual harassment and interviewing victims in high-profile cases has become the focal point of her 9 a.m. talk show, which was floundering before the Harvey Weinstein scandal turned her focus to harassment.
Cons: Kelly’s early weak ratings in the 9 a.m. hour that follows “Today” raise questions about her viability as a morning show personality, particularly in the “Today” world.
Verdict: She’ll probably stick with “Megyn Kelly Today” in the 9 a.m. hour.
Pros: After frequently subbing for Lauer and heading the Sunday edition of “Today,” Geist knows the gig. Plus, as a “Morning Joe” regular he’s got Beltway insiders on speed dial, making him a natural to cover all things Trump.
Cons: A bit stale. Geist was frequently seen as an heir apparent to Lauer, but never got the call. He might be too much of a known quantity.
Verdict: If Joe and Mika can live without him, Geist may be moving to a different part of 30 Rock.
Pros: Funny, smart, and one of the most talented people in TV news.
Cons: Under a long-term contract at CNN.
Verdict: Dream on. Jeff Zucker’s not giving him up.
Pros: He has achieved a measure of redemption as an anchor on MSNBC after losing his “NBC Nightly News” anchor slot for repeatedly “misremembering” his reporting experiences.
Cons: The lingering stain of the “Nightly News” scandal would make him a controversial choice.
Verdict: Williams stays at 11 p.m. on MSNBC.
Pros: Vindication after Lauer helped drive her dismissal in 2012 as his co-anchor on “Today.”
Cons: Internal NBC News politics aside, Curry had her limitations playing the morning show game.
Verdict: Poetic justice won’t extend that far.
Pros: A member of the “Today” family, Daly is a familiar face to the program’s fans and has a peppy, appealing manner.
Cons: The host of NBC’s “The Voice” frequently hops between coasts during the regular September-May TV season.
Verdict: Lacks the news training and necessary gravitas to handle breaking news.
Pros: She is beloved within NBC News and a consistent fan fave. Kotb was on hand Wednesday morning as Guthrie dropped the bombshell about Lauer’s firing. She could be a stabilizing force for a morning show team that’s been rocked by upheaval.
Cons: Kotb is a big draw for the fourth hour of “Today” opposite Kathie Lee Gifford.
Verdict: Kotb could be a short-term fix but probably not the long-term solution.
Pros: News-breaking chops as one of the top political reporters in the business. As morning news revs up its White House coverage, she has the kind of Rolodex “Today” might find irresistible.
Cons: She just started anchoring her own MSNBC show, “Kasie DC,” two months ago.
Verdict: Too soon to make the jump.
Pros: The “Good Morning America” anchor knows how to deliver the news of the day to viewers who are still reaching for their morning coffee.
Cons: He’s under contract at ABC, where he wears many hats, including that of chief news anchor and host of Sunday morning’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
Verdict: Disney/ABC TV chief Ben Sherwood will erect a military blockade in Times Square to keep him at “GMA.”
(Pictured: Craig Melvin, Megyn Kelly, Kasie Hunt)