The Today Show Is Dumping Matt!
Karmic payback?! After 19 years as a morning TV staple, it’s Matt Lauer’s turn on the chopping block
The stars of Today have been playing a curious game of musical chairs. In early May, NBC announced that Natalie Morales, 43, would be moving from NYC to LA to serve as both the morning show’s West Coast anchor and the new host of Access Hollywood. Then just a few weeks later, execs confirmed ongoing buzz that after 15 years hosting Access Hollywood, Billy Bush is moving east to lead the 9 a.m. hour of Today.
But the biggest changes are yet to come. With Today anchor Matt Lauer’s lucrative NBC contract up in December, the network is plotting to push him out, In Touch has exclusively learned. “Matt’s paid a lot of money — upwards of $20 million a year,” explains a network insider. “They just don’t want to continue to give that kind of huge paycheck to one person anymore.” And they’re already eyeing a replacement for the morning show veteran: popular co-anchor Willie Geist. Says the insider: “He’s already being groomed to take over for Matt.”
After 19 years at Today, Matt is just too expensive. But there’s more to it than that, sources say. “NBC isn’t necessarily going to be looking for Matt Lauer version 2.0,” explains a second insider. Happily married father-of-two Willie “has the hardnews knowledge that Matt has, but he also has more of a pop culture appreciation.” It doesn’t hurt that at 41, adds the second insider, “Willie has a boyish enthusiasm, while Matt can come across as a bit aloof.”
Especially since the infamous
Ann Curry debacle. Matt, 58, reportedly had a hand in the decision to ax Ann, 59, from Today in 2012 and was widely blamed for her tearful exit, so some see his ouster as karma. “Make no mistake,” says a show source. “Matt has figured heavily in every on-air staff change at Today, including the booting of Curry.”
Now he’s the one execs are planning to boot. Willie has already taken over the third hour of Today — which he does after co-hosting MSNBC’S Morning Joe from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. — and has also taken on the sole anchor job at Sunday Today. “No one can outwork this guy. He’s made himself indispensable,” says a Willie source. The Sunday gig, adds the network insider, “will give viewers more time to get to know him. Expect Willie to have a lot more airtime during the Summer Olympics as well.”
The Olympics will also be Matt’s swan song. “They’re going to be his farewell to the Today audience. Then he’ll formally step down after the election,” predicts the network insider. His exit will likely be spun as a retirement with Matt “finally being able to sleep past 4:15 a.m.,” adds the network insider, but behind the scenes, it’ll be a different story: “They’re dumping him. Matt’s run is over.” ◼
Willie Geist (left) “is wildly popular within the NBC family, and he and [co-anchor] Savannah Guthrie [pictured, with Al Roker] will make a dynamic duo,” a network insider says of Matt’s replacement.