There’s a scathing article in New York Magazine about the demise of the Today Show. It’s hard to summarize since you have to read the full article, but here’s the background:
- Today was the top morning show until Ann Curry became co-host.
- Today’s ratings decline, while Good Morning America (now called GMA to be hip) was on the rise.
- Feeling frustrated about the ratings and the overall course of the program, Matt Lauer came to the producers to fire Ann. If not, he will leave to ABC.
- As a result, Lauer actually decline to go to ABC to make the Today Show work. He received a $25 million a year deal for 5 years; while Ann Curry was kicked to the curb, while still on NBC News’s payroll. Ann was replaced by Savannah Guthrie and her final goodbye was described behind the scenes as “cold.”
- As of today, GMA is on top of the morning show ratings; Today Show is now second; Matt Lauer’s “Q rating” dips; Ann is still on NBC as a correspondent; and Comcast/NBC have no idea what to do in every time period (morning, daytime, primetime, late night).
Basically, your typical work day of backstabbing, politics, drama, and confusion, with the exception that Ann Curry is crying over $12 million.
It is not a surprise the Today Show is declining because the product is not producing on and off camera, but how this came about in one year?
Let’s break this down on who shares the blame of Today’s demise:
- Jeff Zucker and the producers – The producers should have known Ann wanted the hosting role, but never had the courage to tell her that she wasn’t the right fit after 20+ years. The Today Show producers should use ESPN’s example on dealing with talent like Erin Andrews, who wanted to be a host a sports program. ESPN didn’t renew her contract, she moved to Fox and has her own studio show. Let’s just say ESPN made the right call.
- Ann Curry – Although most were sympathetic about her situation, why stay for a program so long that doesn’t fit her? If she wanted to be a serious newscaster, why stay at NBC where you be 2nd or 3rd banana and not move to another network where she could have her own show, her way? One reason why she stayed this long at NBC: Cash. Nothing wrong with that, but did she worry more about the money or her reputation? If you’re a real newscaster, it’s the latter.
- Matt Lauer – Matt had everything: top guy of a morning show, his “Q rating” was good, and a big contract. What made Matt fall from grace? He literally was playing his version of Richard III and tried to be the sympathetic figure. Women, who are the main demographic for morning shows, can sense when men are conniving and they saw Lauer as a rat after the Ann Curry incident.
- GMA – Give credit where it is due; GMA was patient by sticking to their guns, but also unique timing that Robin Roberts was having her medical battles.
- GE/Comcast situation – This was the underrated aspect of Today’s demise because Comcast was still talking to GE on buying NBC. With that in limbo, the producers had to make a quick decision on replacing Meredith. Ann was the logical choice since she can transition easy and they stay in-house. As we know now, it was a terrible move.
- Al Roker – I really don’t want to know why Al Roker had to tell the story why he went number 2 at the White House.
There are many lessons to be learned from the Today Show debacle that could be avoided at your workplace:
- Do what is right for yourself. Money and/or loyalty should not be the only reason to stay.
- Most say it’s best to speak to top performers, unless the top performers have an inflated ego. Keep them in check.
- Just say it. Don’t try to beat around the bushes.
- Stick to what’s best, and don’t alter the formula until it is necessary for change.
- Limit the damage, get the problem resolved, and have the best possible outcomes for all parties involved.
The Today Show was once the “Happiest Place On Television.” Now, Today (or NBC as a whole) is the best drama going on television because egos are colliding each other and you have no idea how it will turn out. As the article states, do you want to work where your workplace (or stay outside 30 Rock for that matter) is “chilly and awkward?”