The morning television wars are becoming more and more intense by the minute and the latest details of a big change coming to morning television is being reported by The New York Times:
NBC executives are readying a plan to replace Ann Curry on the “Today” show, only a year after she became the co-host of the iconic franchise.
The planning — which is taking place in secret and has not been finalized — is effectively an admission that all is not well at “Today,” the show that invented morning television 60 years ago and inspired countless lower-rated competitors since. “Today” consistently ranked No. 1 in the morning ratings until this spring, when ABC’s “Good Morning America” out-rated it for several weeks.
Even before then, some at NBC were openly criticizing the co-hosting style of Ms. Curry, who succeeded Meredith Vieira last year, after spending 14 years on the show in a lesser role. Questions about her future have encircled the broadcast for months, as some staffers have placed the blame for the ratings woes on Ms. Curry and others have defended her.
Ann Curry is one of the greatest journalists of this generation but in order to succeed in morning television, you can’t always have the best journalistic acumen because those types of jobs are about who has the best and funniest personalities that brighten the days of viewers while also being able to swiftly transition into serious subject matters. Ann is very capable of doing serious stories but it’s the fluff and fun of morning television that she struggles with greatly and has always struggled from the time she started on “Today” 12+ years ago.
“She got her dream job, and she doesn’t want to let it go,” one of the people said. But Ms. Curry has also expressed dissatisfaction with “Today,” where her journalistic curiosities sometimes clash with morning television realities. Accordingly, she may be moved into a foreign correspondent role, reflecting her strengths in reporting from disasters both man-made, like the ethnic killings in Darfur, and natural, like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
This would be the best place for Curry to head but how do you prove to viewers that this isn’t a demotion for Curry? She goes from being the host of one of the highest rated shows on television to just a random correspondent?
The negotiations between NBC and Ms. Curry come months after Mr. Lauer renewed his contract at “Today,” putting to rest months of speculation about how badly the show would be damaged if he departed. Ms. Curry’s departure, similarly, could hurt “Today;” if viewers perceive that she was forced out, they may be turned off by the show, and may literally turn it off as a result.
This concern, expressed repeatedly in the past six months, has slowed down the process of replacing Ms. Curry, according to people at the network. But the process is now clearly under way, and executives in the television news industry believe that changes to Ms. Curry’s role on “Today” could be announced as early as next week. The timing is sensitive because in late July, NBC begins to broadcast the Summer Olympics and the “Today” show tags along, transplanting its studio to the host city.
“They feel real pressure to get it done by the Olympics,” one of the people with knowledge of the negotiations said. That way, “Today” can go to the games with a complete, comfortable team of co-hosts. The show typically gets a big ratings bounce — just the sort of thing it needs to fend off “Good Morning America.”
This moves comes as no surprise to me because in late 2011, I wrote an article about Ryan Seacrest possibly going to the “Today” show, and I discussed the vast contrast in terms of chemistry between “Today” and “GMA” nowadays:
The only problem that “Today” could face is chemistry, something that has already jarred them since Meredith Vieria left. When you watch “GMA” and “Today” at the same time, you can see why “GMA” is starting to pick up in the ratings. On Thursday morning, I kept switching over between the two shows, with both shows having all of their regular anchors in studio and it seems as though on “Today” everyone has become so stiff and boring. It’s not that they don’t get along with each other, but when Matt tries to make a joke it just goes over Ann’s head and she pretends to understand Matt’s sense of humor but the viewer can tell the chemistry isn’t genuine. They just haven’t jelled yet which has affected Al and Natalie’s performance as well.
Over at “GMA” though, they’ve used the “Today” formula of making the viewer feel like they know the anchor team personally and it’s worked for them. There’s a lot of zany, funny features they’ve added like “Play of the Day” and “Pop News Heat Index” that’s helped the team look more human, instead of sticking to serious hard-core news all morning. George Stephanapolous, the guy who people thought would be too serious for “GMA” when he first came in has actually been the bright light of the show because of his unexpected candor and willingness to poke fun with his fellow anchors.
It looks like Savannah Guthrie will most likely take Ann Curry’s place and it makes sense because her and Matt have way more chemistry and get along with each other better than Ann and Matt did. The weird thing is that Matt and Ann get along very well but they aren’t really compatible together. If I’m Ann Curry, after my contract is up I would leave NBC, sort of like what Deborah Norville when she faced a similar situation in the 80′s, and look for somewhere else that really wants me.
CNN already has enough journalists but Fox News would be a great move for her to solidify their journalistic efforts which have been questioned by many. You could make her a co-host of the Fox Report with Shepard Smith or give her a 30-minute newscast for Fox stations to broadcast. Maybe Al-Jazeera or BBC World could make her a cornerstone of their efforts to gain carriage in the United States or she could become a correspondent on “60 Minutes” or she could join ABC News and begin a weekly primetime “on the field” series showcasing her reporting skills and covering international stories that aren’t covered heavily on the politics-heavy American television news industry.
My prediction is that Ann becomes a foreign correspondent for the next year while also joining Brian Williams in anchoring primetime coverage of Election 2012. Savannah Guthrie will take over as the main co-host of “Today” while Tamron Hall becomes a 9am host and keeps her 2pm show on MSNBC. Ann will eventually leave to join Fox News, ABC News, CBS News or an international network. But by the time all of these moves settle in, “GMA” will have a firm lead over “Today”. It’ll be interesting to see where this story goes but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.