Ann Curry’s exit from ‘Today’ show: What the future holds for both the network and television personality
Will NBC promote Savannah Guthrie or Natalie Morales? Or will net look outside for a bigger name for Matt Lauer's next co-host? Morning new landscape will be altered by their decison.Comments
BY ETHAN SACKS / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Friday, June 22, 2012, 1:43 PM
Updated: Monday, June 25, 2012, 11:44 AM
LARRY BUSACCA/GETTY IMAGES
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13: Ann Curry attends the 20th Anniversary of Nick News with Linda Ellerbee at Paley Center For Media on October 13, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
Ann Curry is still the co-host of NBC's "Today" show, but speculation continues to mount over who will be sitting in her anchor seat in the not too distant future.
So what's next for the network and for the 55-year-old news vet?
News that Curry's days were numbered on her "dream job" broke Wednesday. A New York Times report surfaced that secret meetings had been taking place between NBC and her lawyer to push her into a different role just over a year after she replaced outgoing Meredith Vieira as co-host.
Curry, it seems, is taking the hit for the ratings slide that saw the once unbeatable morning program lose the number 1 spot in the ratings to ABC's "Good Morning America" for several weeks.
"The 'Today' show has been on top for a long, long time and its really being threatened and 'GMA' has overtaken it a few times recently, you look at variables that have changed, and the most obvious is cohost," says Robert Thompson, the founding director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.
For Curry, returning to her previous position as a news reader on the show -- a job she held since she joined the show in 1997 until last year - wouldn't be a step back for her career, says Bill Carroll, VP director of programming for the Katz Television Group.
"Her role in the news division will probably be similar to what it was before on 'Today' - special reports, a special correspondent title," he says. "That's quite probable that that's going to happen. They'll be playing to their strengths. Her field reporting has always been excellent, that's the area where they can best use her talents.
"If you're doing hard reporting, and you're good at it is that moving backwards? Not everyone wants to do a cooking segment or interview Tom Cruise for the 15th time."
In an unfortunate piece of timing, a scrawl reading, 'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,' runs across the bottom of Thursday's telecast as Curry is talking to actor Steve Carell.
Regardless of what position she ends up with, she will end up with a nice financial cushion to ease the fall. NBC signed her to a three year deal, worth $10 million annually when she took the co-anchor post in 2011, TMZ reported.
As for the network, with the behind-the-scenes soap opera now out in the public, there is pressure to find an on-air partner for Matt Lauer - and soon. With the network broadcasting the London Olympics this summer, there won't be a better high-profile stage to show off a new co-host.
It's a decision that NBC can not afford to get wrong.
RICHARD CORKERY/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Savannah Guthrie is one of the favorites to be the next 'Today' co-host.
Experts say there are three paths the network can take in finding Curry's replacement, assuming NBC will stick to the proven one male host, one female host formula.:
* Select from in-house.
Bringing back Vieira would be the safest choice, but sources close to the Dateline NBC contributor told TMZ that she wouldn't consider a return to "Today" full-time.
That would leave Savannah Guthrie, who fills in for Curry on "Today" already, as the odds-on favorite.
Another in-house candidate is Natalie Morales, who replaced Curry as newsreader.
"Each of them has shown their competency in being able to fill in when someone's not there," says Carroll. "In essence, the network has already done a test drive, so they already know what's there."
* Signing a big name to make a splash.
Imagine the benefit of hypothetically signing a celebrity like Maria Menounos, who's already in the NBC family and a household name from "Dancing With the Stars."
CNN’s Brooke Baldwin isn’t a huge name - yet - but does have a good range of knowledge of both news and pop culture.
"You could sign a rockstar, someone who will get lots and lots of attention to watch the first episode," says Thompson. "But when Katie Couric and Matt Lauer first started on the 'Today' show, neither of them were rockstars.
"The next legacy host of that franchise could very likely be someone we've never heard of."
* Take a chance on an unknown.
Right now, it's a good bet that NBC is looking at footage of every anchor in every network affiliate to see if there is untapped talent ready for a national stage.
Before Couric jumped to "Today," she was a reporter for WTVJ in Miami.
"This is showbiz, not science, it's alchemy not chemistry," says Thompson. "If there were a right answer, every show would be a hit."