NBC is looking for Matt Lauer's replacement and they are really hoping that when Lauer steps aside, they don't screw it up like they did with Ann Curry.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that less than two years after a disastrous anchor transition on NBC'sToday, the clock is counting down to the next one. And the debate over who might replace Matt Lauer, said to earn nearly $25 million annually on a deal that extends to early 2015, is as delicate as it will be public. The botched June 2012 changeover from Ann Curry to Savannah Guthrie might have torpedoed NBC News' reputation as the outlet of the deftly executed handoff, but it also has made NBCUniversal executives including CEO Steve Burkeand News Group chairman Patricia Fili-Krushel determined to make the next one smooth and painless. "We hope that he wants to last out at least this contract on the Today show," Fili-Krushel recently told THR, adding that she'd "keep Matt Lauer as long as he wants to stay."
But she also admitted the focus over the next two years is finding his heir apparent and that "expanding the family is the easiest way" to groom a successor but "not the only way."
Willie Geist, 38, joined Today more than a year ago as co-host of the 9 a.m. hour with Natalie Morales and Al Roker. Geist is well-liked at NBC News and MSNBC, where he continues to appear on the first half of Morning Joe. He and Meet the Presshost David Gregory, who has filled in on Today, are the obvious in-house candidates to succeed Lauer, should he leave. And some suggest Gregory, 43, is better suited to Today than Meet the Press, which has endured ratings woes, falling behind ABC's This Week during the third quarter. CNBC's Carl Quintanilla also is said to be a contender.
Data provided to THR by Q Scores, which measures audience sentiment toward stars, reveals that Geist and Gregory have higher positive ratings than Lauer; among adult women -- the key demographic against which morning TV ads are sold -- Gregory's positive Q Score stands at 18, compared with Geist's 14. Lauer this year dropped to a positive Q Score of 7, compared with 15 in 2012.
Burke is said to have made Today a top priority.