Hoda Kotb was named co-anchor of the first two hours of NBC’s venerable “Today” morning show, launching the program into a new era after the ouster of longtime co-host Matt Lauer for inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
Kotb will sit alongside Savannah Guthrie, making the NBC program at present the only national A.M. program officially anchored solely by a female team. And she will continue to co-host the 10 a.m. hour of “Today” opposite Kathie Lee Gifford, a role she has held since 2007, when she co-anchored the hour with Ann Curry and Natalie Morales. Gifford, long known for co-hosting the syndicated “Live” with Regis Philbin, joined her at “Today” in 2008, and the two have led an unorthodox morning hour that involves drinking wine, interviewing celebrities and finishing each other’s sentences. The program has proven popular enough that NBC for a time offered repeats of it during overnight hours.
Kotb took up her new duties under difficult circumstances. Lauer was fired by NBC News, part of a wave of prominent media personalities who have been accused of sexual harassment. CBS pushed Charlie Rose from its “CBS This Morning” under similar circumstances just a few weeks ago. But during her time alongside Guthrie, the show’s ratings have surged. “Today” has won more viewers overall and among the 25-to-54 crowd than “GMA” or CBS’s “CBS This Morning” for four weeks. Its lead over “GMA,” however, has slipped and it is not clear whether the NBC show can maintain its new dominance.
“Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running. They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of ‘Today,’ said Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News Group, in a statement Monday morning. “Hoda is, in a word, remarkable. She has the rare ability to share authentic and heartfelt moments in even the most difficult news circumstances. It’s a tribute to her wide range and her innate curiosity.”
Kotb is likely to continue doing what she has always done at “Today.” Whether trading lines with the outspoken Gifford or lending a hand during the show’s first two hours (Kotb has for months had a presence during that time), she tends to bring a sense of calm to the proceedings. The show could use it. Lauer’s departure, based on NBC News’ discovery that he had acted inappropriately with female colleagues, has raised fears “Today” could be hurt in its perennial ratings race with its chief rival, ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Like the other broadcast morning programs, “Today” has lost viewers in the demographic advertisers like most – people between 25 and 54. The show also faces a changing field. Audiences are gravitating to A.M. programs that are less buttoned-down, and thrive on hard-news opens and tougher on-air interviews between anchors and politicians and newsmakers.
“This has to be the most popular decision NBC News have ever made and I’m so thrilled,” said Guthrie in the opening moments of Monday’s program.
The decision makes Guthrie in some ways the de facto heart of the program. A veteran political and legal correspondent, Guthrie has soldiered on in recent weeks, having to inform “Today” audiences about the the surprise ouster of Lauer and keep the show going under emotional duress. “Savannah, in her five years co-anchoring ‘Today,’ has proven to be one of the best and most uncompromising interviewers in the business. Her unique credibility spans politics and pop culture and everything in between,” said Lack. ” On top of all that, we’ve been lucky enough to watch and delight in her joy as she has built her own family, all while becoming the center of ‘Today’s’. She’s been a rock for our organization in tough times, and we are grateful.”
NBC News makes Kotb’s new role official at an important time for the show. NBCUniversal in February will launch its usual mammoth coverage of the Olympics, an event that often lends “Today” a ratings boost.
Kotb has been with NBC News since 1998, when she joined “Dateline” as a correspondent. She had previously worked at various local stations in places such as New Orleans and Fort Myers, Florida. Kotb began her broadcast career with CBS News as a news assistant in Cairo, Egypt in 1986. She has reported on everything from war in Iraq to health issues.
But viewers have followed her personal life as well as her career achievements. They have watched as she detailed a battle with breast cancer in 2007 and they recently followed earlier this year when she adopted a daughter at age 52. They will no doubt continue to track the host in her new position.
Watch the announcement below.