A new report goes inside the turmoil at NBC’s ‘Today’ show and the high-profile ouster of Ann Curry, revealing tension between Curry and her co-workers and focusing of Matt Lauer’s role in her sudden exit from the show. The report by New York magazine also talks about a feud between NBC News boss Steve Capus and “Today” exec producer Jim Bell.
Lauer continues to be the target of criticism over the handling of the Curry situation and the show’s fall in the ratings. One of the key revelations in the new report, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is that internal research showed Lauer, and not Curry, was falling out of favor with viewers in the period leading up to Curry’s exit.
“As ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ gained on ‘Today,’ then-executive producer Jim Bell began blaming it on Curry, as did some of NBC’s affiliates, who began complaining in board meetings that Curry needed to go,” THR reports. “But internal research conducted by SmithGeiger showed otherwise — that Lauer was perceived as less appealing than Curry. While onscreen, he looked ‘aloof, a little bit holier-than-thou and pompous,’ says a former NBC executive who saw the reports. ‘He was becoming Bryant Gumbel.’"
Another point to surface is that Curry was thin-skinned about her colleagues’ jokes at her expense. THR reports: “Former ‘Today’ co-host Katie Couric used to tease Curry about her clothes, but Curry took those remarks ‘badly.’ And, in 2011, Lauer and producers played a prank on the cast by sending them to a fake magazine photo shoot, where the photographer had a meltdown and began firing his staffers. But Curry became ‘infuriated with Lauer and retreated to her dressing room,’ New York magazine reports.”
Lauer and Curry barely spoke to each other when Curry was at “Today,” according to the NY Magazine report. “But Curry tried to form a relationship with him,” THR notes. “When she was named co-host, she asked Lauer out to lunch to get some advice from him, but he ‘seemed to drag his feet scheduling it and Curry felt he didn’t offer much,’ New York magazine reports. He soon began ‘getting more involved in the daily story lineup, getting into fights with producers and tearing the show up in the early-morning hours.’ He also expressed how unhappy he was with Curry to a friend and spoke of cutting back on work.”
THR adds: “Lauer saw the writing on the wall on Curry’s final day, even as cameras were rolling. ‘I think we all knew it at that moment,’ he says. ‘And it just seemed like something — there was nothing we could do as it was happening, and we all felt bad about it.’
“In fact, the show soon lost half a million viewers as well as its No. 1 ranking to ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ after 16 years, resulting in a loss of millions of advertising dollars ‘overnight.’ And Lauer himself became perceived as the person responsible for Curry’s ouster, fairly or not. Just this month, Chelsea Handler joked to him: ‘You have a worse reputation than I do.’"
The THR report adds: "A power struggle erupted between ‘Today’ EP Bell and NBC News chief Capus. Capus, concerned about Bell’s close relationship with [NBCUniversal CEO Steve] Burke, began ‘sending mixed messages and sowing confusion, which made the trouble much harder to resolve,’ according to New York magazine. Bell wanted Curry gone by the London Olympics, which kicked off in July, but Capus began telling her that she wasn’t the problem as he became ‘increasingly paranoid about Bell’s power and designs.’ Capus, in fact, ‘fanned Curry’s hope that she could hang on longer and undermined Bell’s strategy of resetting the ‘Today’ show cast during the Olympics.’"