Anderson Cooper Gets Pulled Into Matt Lauer’s Today Mess

Matt Lauer and Anderson CooperThis week, New York Magazine dove deep into Matt Lauer and the Today show’s recent ratings slide/betrayal imbroglio. If you are not currently a housespouse, joyfully unemployed, and/or just really interested in how to spruce up an outhouse, and so haven’t been paying attention, here’s a breakdown: Back in 2011, Ann Curry replaced Meredith Vieira as Matt Lauer’s co-anchor. Then, after just over a year on the job, Curry got bounced, for reasons related either to (a) a general unsuitably for the gig, or (b) a distinct inability to vibe with Lauer specifically (her teary, awkward on-air good-bye — at one point Lauer tried to plant a consoling kiss on her, and she ducked it — seemed to suggest the latter). And then: “After sixteen years as the No. 1 morning show in America, Today was worth nearly half a billion dollars a year in advertising revenue to NBC, the bedrock of its business. In the aftermath of the Curry debacle, the show lost half a million viewers and ceded first place in the ratings war to ABC’s Good Morning America, losing millions of dollars overnight.” Yikes.

So right now, the onus is on Lauer to bring the show back on top. As New York explained, the word is that it wasn’t quite Lauer who ousted Curry, but it wasn’t quite Lauer who didn’t oust her, either: Considering his pull at the network, and his hefty contract, his lack of internal support for Ann was a death knell in itself.

Which brings us to this morning, and more Today show fallout. All right!

Deadline reports:

Here’s the latest wrinkle: I hear NBC toppers recently reached out to CNN’s Anderson Cooper to replace Lauer on the show before the end of the year. After their initial approach to Cooper, I hear NBC reached out to Lauer to get his blessing about the changeover. But I heard they got pushback from the Today veteran, who contacted Cooper to express his disapproval. I also hear that call caught Cooper by surprise, as he had assumed Lauer had been brought on board before NBC began making overtures.

NBC, dutifully, denies doing any such thing. Says THR:

True, NBC executives and sources close to Anderson Cooper say the network did reach out to silver-haired CNN correspondent. But he is not in line to replace Lauer. According to an NBC executive, the network has “exploratory talks with talent inside and outside of the network. But to read anything specific into that is presumptuous.” NBC News senior vp Alexandra Wallace told THR in a statement: “As we’ve said before, Matt Lauer is the best in the business. We want him in the Today show anchor chair for many years to come.”

Also important to note here is that Lauer is locked up, at $25 million a year, until 2015. Considering the money, trying to replace Lauer after just dumping Curry to placate him seems like an odd move? But hey: It’s NBC. This network has made an art form out of behind-the-scenes train wrecks out-entertaining anything onscreen. Except for that “How to Dress Your Kids in Celebrity Style” segment. That “How to Dress Your Kids in Celebrity Style” segment was dope.

Filed Under: NBC

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

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