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

In Touch (USA) - - News flash -

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.

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