Ann Curry to Take Over for Meredith Vieira on 'Today' on June 9
Natalie Morales is upped to news anchor, while Savannah Guthrie is elevated to 9 a.m. anchor.
The game of musical chairs continues at NBC's Today show, with Ann Curry replacing Meredith Vieira as co-host beginning June 9.
As Vieira announced on the Today show Monday morning (and The Hollywood Reporter reported earlier), Vieira will exit the morning show in June, nearly three months before the end of her contract. At that time, Curry will be promoted to co-host, with 9 a.m. anchor Natalie Morales taking her former job as news anchor. White House correspondent and MSNBC anchor Savannah Guthrie will become the show's 9 a.m. anchor.
“Ann has been such a key member of this show for more than 15 years, has brought her warmth and her desire to tell important stories to Today,” Matt Lauer said on Monday. “And I know you'll continue to do that, so congratulations.”
Curry responded: “So sweet. So sweet. You know, I feel like the high school computer nerd who was just asked to the prom by the quarterback of the football team.”
The shake-up comes five years after Vieira settled in beside longtime Today co-host Lauer. In the half-decade that has followed, Today has extended its run as the No. 1 morning news program to more than 800 weeks.
Beyond bragging rights, Today has been a profit center for its host network, pulling in half a billion dollars in ad revenue for the weekday morning hours alone last year.
While other names have been bandied about as potential successors to Vieira, Curry offers viewers a dose of familiarity during a network news era otherwise heavy on change.
Earlier this year, CBS looked to jump start viewership by replacing its Early Show staff with a new team led by Chris Wragge and Erica Hill. In ABC's attempt to close the ratings gap with Today, its A.M. offering Good Morning America continues to add new faces, including The Insider's Lara Spencer and ESPN's Josh Elliott. And last week, Katie Couric announced that she'd be exiting her CBS Evening News gig, with 60 Minutes veteran Scott Pelley expected to replace her.
Similarly working in Curry's favor, a deal point in her contract that would allow the 14-year veteran to walk had she been passed over for the job a second time, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Curry had hoped to land the gig when Couric departed, but the role went to outsider Vieira instead. In an essay for Guideposts magazine last year, Curry wrote: "Interestingly enough, what some might consider a big professional disappointment -- not being named co-host of Today when Katie Couric left -- has only clarified my mission. I would've loved that job, but not getting it made me think, What is it I need to be doing? The answer was clear: humanitarian reporting -- finding those who are suffering far from the eyes of the world and getting their stories out, making people care about them."
Vieira's decision to move on is a personal one, driven in part by her daughter's looming college send-off and her husband's long battle with multiple sclerosis. She will continue to maintain an on-air presence as host of the syndicated game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Now that Today's female anchors are firmly in place, NBC News brass will turn its attention to Lauer. Though multiple sources tell THR that the longtime anchor cannot begin negotiating with competing outlets until one month before his NBC contract expires in December 2012, keeping him happily in the fold will -- and should -- be a top priority in the months to come.