It was once the highest rated morning show in America but “Today” has fallen into second place this year behind archrival “Good Morning America” in the cutthroat ratings race.
Much of the fall has been attributed to the appalling handling of Ann Curry’s firing as co-host, which was said to be orchestrated, in part, by Matt Lauer.
Despite putting Savannah Guthrie in Curry’s place, it has done little to attract more viewers. Then there was the news this week that executive producer Jim Bell, who has been running “Today” since 2005, had been ousted too.
Now, TV industry insiders are telling the New York Daily News that no amount of NBC executive reshuffling can save the embattled “Today” show — until its longtime co-host throws in the towel.
“This problem is not going to go away until Matt Lauer does,” a prominent former NBC News exec told the Daily News on Tuesday. “He’s great, but fairly or unfairly, his brand is damaged.”
The sentiment comes just as a new production team is poised to take over “Today”.
Alexandra Wallace, 46, a TV news veteran with morning show experience and a senior vice president at NBC News, will take charge of the show in the near future.
But insiders doubt this will do little to revive the embattled show.
“Nothing’s changed here,” an industry competitor said of Wallace, a mother of two young children.
“She was put in charge of (Brian Williams’ prime-time magazine) ‘Rock Center’ just earlier this year, and they’re still rock bottom in prime time.” As a top executive at NBC News, she has also had a hand in the slow-motion “Today” ratings collapse.
“They just keep throwing layers of management on this problem,” another competitor said.
Let’s not forget, that Lauer, 52, reportedly rakes in a whopping $25 million-a year to co-host the show.
Should he stay, or should he go?