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There are more changes afoot at NBC’s Today. Executive producer Jim Bell will leave the morning program for a full-time position at NBC Sports, where he’ll be executive producer of the network’s Olympics coverage, according to network sources.
It’s unclear exactly when Bell will exit the formerly top-rated morning show, but his departure has been rumored for some time. NBC News executive Alexandra Wallace, who recently took over as executive producer on Brian Williams’ Rock Center, is likely to become the executive producer of Today, but sources caution that a transition is not yet finalized. The decision is being made by NBC News president Steve Capus and NBCUniversal News Group chairman Pat Fili-Krushel. Wallace – who was Capus’ No. 2 before being tapped in October to lead Rock Center and also oversee Ann Curry’s production unit – is expected to get a deputy to run Today day-to-day. Fili-Krushel was brought in post-Comcast merger by NBCUni CEO Steve Burke. Last summer, Burke installed Fili-Krushel to oversee the company’s news assets including NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC.
News of the transition was first reported by The New York Times. NBC News declined comment.
Bell, who counts Dick Ebersol among his mentors at NBC, rose through the ranks of NBC Sports. And he pulled double duty during the summer as executive producer of the London Olympics. NBC has the U.S. rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and last year locked up rights to the next four Olympics for $4.38 billion.
Bell led Today through a successful anchor transition from Katie Couric to Meredith Vieira. But the more recent ouster of Curry – Vieira’s replacement – was far less smooth. Bell was known to be wary of putting Curry, who had spent 14 years as the show’s newsreader, in the co-host chair next to Matt Lauer. But Capus basically overruled him. (He told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year the he thought Curry “deserved a shot” after doing yeoman’s duty as the show’s newsreader and globetrotting correspondent.)
But the lack of chemistry between Lauer and Curry was apparent immediately. And the snapping in April of Today’s 16-plus-year morning news winning streak by ABC’s Good Morning America set in motion what became an extremely awkward transition between Curry and new co-host Savannah Guthrie, with Bell urging NBC News brass to remove Curry. But a hoped-for reset with the London Olympics never materialized, and GMA has continued to best Today most weeks.
Meanwhile, Bell professed as recently as late September to being fully committed to Today, even as rumors of his departure were rampant.
“I’m very happy where I am,” he told THR during a Sept. 26 interview. “I think part of the daily grind here is you don’t allow yourself to think grand or long-term thoughts. We’re just sort of plugging along with [Today]. I love the show; it’s been part of my life. I can’t speak beyond that.”
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