An NBC “backup plan” has reportedly surfaced for the embattled “Today” show, with new names being floated as possible replacements for Matt Lauer.
The New York Post reports that NBC News Chairwoman Patricia Fili-Krushel is working on a "plan B" for the show, focused on lining up a replacement for Lauer in case he leaves before his $25 million contract ends in 2014.
While the network isn’t said to be seeking an immediate replacement for Lauer, it wants to have a smoother transition than the painful exit of former co-host Ann Curry, the story says.
As previously reported, executives reached out to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper about possibly replacing Lauer on the show, which has suffered a loss of viewers and slipped to No. 2 in the morning daypart behind ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Other names are being floated as well, including internal hires such as Willie Geist, "Meet the Press" host David Gregory and "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams.
Outside the network, executives are said to be considering rival Josh Elliott of "Good Morning America," Ryan Seacrest of "American Idol" and ESPN anchor Dan Patrick, the story says.
“ABC’s ‘GMA’ topped ‘Today’ for the first time in 16 years last April. NBC bosses booted Curry from the anchor chair, along with the executive who oversaw the show, Jim Bell, who was reassigned to Olympics coverage,” the Post reports. “Lauer’s nice-guy persona also has taken a beating. His lack of chemistry with Curry, coupled with her tearful on-air departure, has led to the widely held belief that he helped push her out.”
But NBC continues to downplay the likelihood of an early exit for Lauer. In a statement, Alex Wallace, the executive overseeing “Today,” said: “We are not considering replacing Matt Lauer. As we’ve said before, Matt is the best in the business. We want him in the ‘Today’ show anchor chair for many years to come.”
Sources confirmed that the network reached out to CNN’s Cooper, the report notes, with indications being that Cooper doesn’t want the “Today” job. The story notes: “Wallace first raised Cooper’s name in late 2011, when Lauer was weighing whether to renew his contract, a source said.”