×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why Hoda Kotb Isn’t Making Matt Lauer’s Salary (at Least Not Yet)

Analysis: It's easy to compare Hoda Kotb's salary to predecessor Matt Lauer's and cite gender inequality. But TV thrives on paying new people in old positions significantly less...

In the world of TV news, there’s an inordinate amount of time and effort spent scrutinizing what the nation’s most popular anchors make. The figures can be eyebrow raising: Katie Couric was reportedly making $15 million a year when anchoring “CBS Evening News” and Matt Lauer, depending on which unverified report one chooses to believe as if it were passed along in a personal memo from NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, could have been pulling down anywhere from $20 million to $25 million during his last year hosting NBC’s “Today.”

Little wonder, then, that a report in The New York Post’s Page Six all about newsroom salaries has stirred up online opprobrium. In this case, people are shocked by what NBCUniversal may or may not be paying Hoda Kotb, the newly-christened co-anchor of “Today” (and, coincidentally, Lauer’s replacement). It’s not how much the network is paying Kotb that has triggered thousands of impulses to let loose on Twitter, but rather a question as to whether NBC is paying Kotb enough.

According to Page Six, NBC is paying Kotb the meager sum of just $7 million a year — a number, the outlet says, that could be equivalent to what her co-anchor Savannah Guthrie might earn, but far less than Lauer’s mammoth paycheck. An NBC spokesperson said the network doesn’t comment on compensation and a spokesperson for CAA, the agency that represents Kotb, said executives there declined to comment. “I’m not making Matt Lauer money. Not even close,” Kotb told People according to a story posted Wednesday.

While the optics of the financial arrangement have spurred a very worthwhile and necessary discussion about compensation parity among men and women in the media business, the simple fact is that Kotb is being treated much like almost any other anchor or host who takes over a coveted and long-held post on a venerable TV program. TV networks often see opportunity in such transitions, because it typically means a cutback in salary outlay. It’s a fair gamble, for example, that Stephen Colbert wasn’t given David Letterman’s salary upon taking over CBS’ “Late Show,” or that Trevor Noah was not immediately handed Jon Stewart’s financial arrangement upon being given the reins to Comedy Central’s “Daily Show.” Lauer, no doubt, wasn’t immediately festooned with Bryant Gumbel’s paycheck when he graduated to a “Today” co-anchor slot in 1997.

Few TV anchors start off making massive salaries, and there’s been a growing consensus in the industry in recent weeks that fewer are going to snare those figures in the future. The economics of the business no longer support it. Viewers are getting their news from dozens of new outlets, and many broadcast-news mainstays have experienced viewer erosion of the last several years. In the U.S., about 93% of adults get news via mobile or desktop, according to data from Pew Research Center, while the overall audiences for broadcast network evening newscasts and morning programs each dropped 1% in 2016.  The fact that “Today” has started to trump ABC rival “Good Morning America” in the ratings since Lauer’s departure and that “CBS This Morning” has not seen massive viewer defections since Charlie Rose was ousted lend credence to the notion that TV-news junkies are increasingly tuning in first for the news and second for the familiar person delivering it.

To be sure, there have been and always will be exceptions. Megyn Kelly is believed to have negotiated a salary of at least $17 million from NBC News, which snared her when her contract at Fox News Channel ended last year. Fox News is known to pay its top stars salaries well above some industry standards, however, and NBC had to cough up attractive terms at a time when Kelly was holding exploratory talks with several news organizations.

Salaries grow the longer a person stays in a particular position. In the recent past, Lauer signed new deals every two or three years, and it’s easy to see how compensation might grow substantially at that rate, particularly when he held the same role for at least two decades.

But it’s the rare case when someone gets the same salary as their predecessor. Anchors and hosts need to prove staying power and show they are a ratings draw. Over time, that makes them more valuable and more difficult to let go. No doubt, if “Today” continues to outdraw “GMA” as it has in recent weeks — whether it can remains an unknown — or if the broadcast gains new viewers or widens its overall audience, Kotb will no doubt see her compensation rise with each contract renewal.

The question people should be asking isn’t whether Hoda Kotb is making Matt Lauer’s former salary. She’s not. But is she making a fair wage given that she’s the co-host of two of NBC’s most valuable hours while continuing to co-host a third with Kathie Lee Gifford? Only her agents and top NBCUniversal executives know for sure.

More TV

  • black lgbtq actors hollywood representation

    TV Roundup: 'Pose' Season 2 Premiere Date Pushed Back on FX

    In today’s roundup, “Pose” gets a new Season 2 premiere date and Sara Gilbert is set to play a recurring role on Season 3 of Netflix’s “Atypical.” FIRST LOOK The TV Academy has unveiled the key art for the 71st Emmy Awards. The new design, which will be used across platforms including the Emmy’s website, [...]

  • James Holzhauer Jeopardy

    Why James Holzhauer Is Bad for 'Jeopardy!' (Column)

    James Holzhauer, who is closing in on a million dollars of game-show winnings, is on track to become the most successful “Jeopardy!” contestant of all time. And he’s become such a dominant force that a historic run has come to seem, as television, boring. Over the course of thirteen episodes and counting, Holzhauer’s methods and [...]

  • Joe Ianniello

    CBS Suspends CEO Search, Extends Ianniello in Role Through 2019

    CBS Corp. said it would suspend the months-long search it has conducted for a new leader for the company since the departure of Leslie Moonves and would instead extend the tenure of its acting chief, Joseph Ianniello, through the end of 2019. “Joe has demonstrated exceptional leadership during this time of unprecedented transition at CBS. [...]

  • Wanda Sykes Silicon Valleywood

    Wanda Sykes on Doing Business With Netflix: 'They Moved That Comma'

    MENLO PARK, Calif. — Wanda Sykes wears a lot of hats as a comedian, writer, producer and entrepreneur, and that gives her a keen sense of the ever-growing content marketplace. She also has a very clear understanding of what she’s worth in dollars and cents, as she shared Tuesday in her Q&A at Variety’s Silicon [...]

  • Jenna Hager Hoda Kotb

    NBC News Sets Joanne LaMarca as EP, 'Today' Fourth Hour

    Just after NBC News recalibrated the fourth our of its daytime “Today” program, it has named a new executive producer to oversee the show. Joanne LaMarca, a longtime “Today” staffer who left NBC News in 2017 after a long run, will return as the new head of the 10 a.m. hour that is now led by [...]

  • Adam McKay photogrpahed at the PMC

    HBO to Team With Adam McKay on Scripted Showtime Lakers Series

    HBO is bringing the Showtime Lakers to the scripted arena with “Showtime,” Variety has confirmed. The series, which has received a pilot order at the cabler, hails from Adam McKay, who will direct. “Showtime” will be based on Jeff Pearlman’s non-fiction book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” “Jeff Pearlman’s [...]

  • The 100 -- "Sanctum" -- Image

    'The 100' Boss Breaks Down Season 6's New World and Theme of 'Can We Do Better?'

    When “The 100” returns for its sixth season on April 30, the CW drama will thrust its characters into a brand new world. After escaping a no-longer habitable Earth at the end of the fifth season, the characters went into cryostasis until the planet was ready for life again. One hundred and twenty-five years later, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content