Remember those rumors last year about Ryan Seacrest possibly taking over for Matt Lauer on Today? A new report out about the fragility of the NBC morning franchise confirms that Peacock execs had considered giving the American Idol host the anchor job in case its prized talent jumped to the competition — which was apparently a real possibility.
According to a report in New York Magazine, Lauer was told he could look for a new job by superiors who were eager to placate him because of his growing frustration over Today co-anchor Ann Curry. It turns out that Lauer was meeting with ABC about possibly reuniting with Katie Couric for a daytime talk show. Lauer had reportedly met with Disney CEO Bob Iger, who, like other ABC execs, was eager to unseat Today from its ratings perch. There was real confidence at ABC that Lauer was willing to make such a high-profile move.
Ultimately, New York reports, Lauer used the talks with ABC as a negotiating tactic and ended up snagging a two-year, $25 million contract from NBC — the richest-ever deal given to a morning show talent. All the higher-ups then made the decision to drop Curry and build Today around its high-priced asset.
Ironically, Curry wasn’t quite the liability that Lauer and his superiors thought she was: A research company called SmithGeiger that was brought in to study the show said that Lauer was more unappealing than Curry. “He was looking aloof, a little bit holier-than-thou, and pompous,” a former NBC executive who viewed the reports told New York. “He was becoming Bryant Gumbel.”
Meanwhile, Seacrest did end up joining NBC, but as an Olympics correspondent. When the announcement was made on Today, Lauer and Seacrest joked about the rumors and how there had been “conversations” about the Idol host possibly filling in for Al Roker as weather man. “I see you doing this as long as you want to,” Seacrest said when Matt Lauer asked if he saw a possible future at the Today show. “So maybe the question is how long will you be on the Today show? Because fans and I think you should be here for years to come.”