Billy Bush Exiting 'Access Hollywood' for NBC's 'Today'
An announcement about Bush's new gig could come May 16 at NBC's annual upfront.
NBC is bringing one of its longtime stars to Today.
After months of speculation, Access Hollywood Live host Billy Bush is set to join the morning show, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
A formal announcement about Bush's new gig is expected to be made at NBC's annual upfront presentation May 16 at New York's Radio City Music Hall. THR first reported NBC's courtship of Bush in October, and the move is said to be an open secret on the Access set. Sources close to Bush say he recently began the process of relocating from Los Angeles to New York.
NBC News declined comment, but Bush is expected to play a key role in the venerable morning show’s 9 a.m. hour. However, it’s unclear if he’ll be rotated in or will replace Willie Geist, who recently began hosting a revamped Sunday version of Today while still appearing on Today's 9 a.m. hour and MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Tamron Hall, Natalie Morales and Al Roker are Geist’s co-hosts at 9 a.m. The plan to unveil Bush's new Today gig at NBC's upfront may point to an upcoming splashy rebrand for that hour of the program, which competes in many markets with ABC's Live With Kelly and Michael (which is itself going through a transition as co-host Michael Strahan exits for ABC's Good Morning America).
The flagship Today show is beating ABC’s GMA in the critical 25-54 demographic this season. Though GMA remains the most-watched morning show, it has dropped double digits in critical demos. That's why ABC recently recruited Strahan for a full-time gig on the show beginning in September. But the 9 a.m. hour remains the weak link in the NBC franchise that also includes Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford’s frothy 10 a.m. iteration.
Sources say Bush is expected to start in September. But NBC’s coverage of the Rio Olympics, which begins Aug. 5, gives Today an enormous platform during which to showcase talent. The awkward anchor transition from Ann Curry to Savannah Guthrie was timed in part so Guthrie would be in place for the London Olympics in 2012. The changeover from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show also was positioned to take advantage of the network’s lift from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Bush, who was a correspondent for WNBC's Today in New York morning show early in his career, has been at Access Hollywood since 2001. He was bumped up to co-anchor in 2004 and then was named co-anchor with Kit Hoover of its spinoff, daytime show Access Hollywood Live, when it launched in 2010.
Access staffers already have begun to bid farewell to Bush, who will have to move to New York for Today.
As part of his longtime tenure at NBCUniversal Television Distribution, Bush also has served as a reporter for the network's Olympics coverage dating back to the 2004 Summer Games.