The third hour of “Today,” which has been broadcast from Studio 6A since Kelly began hosting the time slot in the fall of 2017, is moving to Studio 1A, the facility from which the program’s flagship two hours originate, NBC News confirmed. The move is being made to streamline the production process and make the division between the two broadcasts more seamless, the spokeswoman said. The last broadcast of “Today” from Studio 6A will take place on January 4, NBC News said, and the show will hold forth from Studio 1A starting January 7.
The maneuver is the latest from the network as it works on the fly to recalibrate the 9 a.m. broadcast of the program in the wake of the cancellation of Kelly’s tenure. Kelly left the third hour of the broadcast in October after a controversy erupted when she held an on-air discussion about the use of blackface in Halloween costumes. Her broadcast was a bet on something different for the storied NBC A.M. mainstay – a live audience and a more opinionated host.
Since her departure, NBC News has presented a more buttoned-down version of the program, led by “Today” anchors including Craig Melvin, Al Roker Sheinelle Jones, and Dylan Dreier. On some days, Savannah Guthrie or Hoda Kotb, the lead anchors of the first two hours, take part. And on other days, there are surprises: an appearance by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, for instance, or even a cameo by Natalie Morales, the former “Today” newsreader who once played a more prominent role in the 9 a.m. broadcast.
While Kelly’s hour relied on a studio filled with a live audience, the new third hour will make use of smaller in-studio crowd, NBC News said.
Editorial and tech staffers assigned to the 9 a.m. broadcast will remain with the hour, NBC News said. Some freelancers who worked on the broadcast could be affected, though the news unit is working to find these employees other duties.
NBC News is likely eyeing new “Today” changes with some degree of caution. Ratings for both the third hour and the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. broadcast have been on the rise in recent weeks. The show’s first two hours have long generated the most viewers among people between 25 and 54 – the demographic most coveted by advertisers. But for the past six weeks, the have also scored more morning viewers overall, allowing for victories over the show’s main rival, ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
The studio change will bring another benefit: easier logistics. When Guthrie and Kotb take part in the third hour, they won’t have very far to travel. Studios 1A and 6A are not situated close to each other, and the two co-anchors often have to do updates after signing off at 9 a.m. for viewers on the U.S. west coast.