Matt Lauer has been caught in the eye of the storm at NBC’s “Today Show” ever since the controversial ouster of co-host Anne Curry. Now the bulls-eye may be on him, with American Idol host Ryan Seacrest waiting in the wings.
Lauer, 54, became a polarizing figure after reports surfaced that he engineered the popular Curry’s exit from the co-host’s chair. She was replaced by the younger and prettier Savannah Guthrie.
Since then, the show has struggled in the ratings and is now routinely beaten by ABC’s “Good Morning America,” it’s long-time rival. The Today Show was No. 1 in the morning for 16-straight years, and weathered the departure of popular co-host Katie Couric.
But this time the show has been unable to pull out of its ratings spiral. The network last week named Don Nash, the show’s longtime number two, as its new executive producer. He’ll oversee rebuilding the show under the auspices of Senior Vice President Alexandra Wallace, who was named “executive in charge” of “Today,” a newly created position, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Wallace is said to be a close friend and colleague of Curry’s. Lauer has reputation for feuding with female co-hosts going back to Couric and Meredith Vieira. Long-time weatherman Al Roker has also reportedly turned against him because of they way Curry was handled, The National Enquirer reports.
“Matt and Al used to be good buddies, until Al found out Matt had been instrumental in Ann’s ouster,” a source told The Enquirer. “They come across as friends on the air, but that’s all an act.”
Seacrest, who hosts a radio show in addition to his “American Idol,” has been signed by NBC to appear on the show and reportedly is being groomed to replace Lauer. The move wasn’t expected for a couple more years, but may come sooner than expected.
Insiders, reportedly including Roker, have been rooting for Willie Geist, 37, who was recently named co-host of “Today’s” 9am segment.
Some publications, including The Enquirer, report that Lauer’s goose is already cooked. But don’t look for changes until after the first of the year, if at all. Lauer is a master of insider politics.