Will Josh Elliot Replace Matt Lauer on ‘Today’?

NBC has signed one of the key morning show hosts away from ABC. How long until Josh Elliot takes Matt Lauer's chair?

Apr 6, 2014 at 8:03AM

When NBC's (NASDAQ:CMCSA)Today Show led the morning ratings for 16 years, one of the key factors in maintaining that dominance was the stability of the cast. Aside from the awkward transition between Jane Pauley and Deborah Norville -- which almost caused the show to dip behind ABC's (NYSE:DIS) Good Morning America -- Today managed to subtly switch out cast members without disrupting the chemistry of the program.

Today finally lost its hold on the top spot when the show named Ann Curry as Matt Lauer's co-host only to force her out after less than a year. Curry was not particularly good at being a morning show co-anchor and was not well-liked by the public, but the perception that she was wronged made her a sympathetic figure. More importantly it made Lauer a villain and showed that "America's First Family" was not a family at all but people who may not actually like each other very much.

The public's trust was breached and a door was opened for the competition. 

The same thing is happening now at Good Morning America and Today might be moving into position to take the top spot back.

What happened at Good Morning America?

While Today was involved in the Curry soap opera, GMA was building a cast that genuinely seemed to like each other. George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts may have been the lead anchors, but news anchor Josh Elliot, weatherman Sam Champion, and lifestyle anchor Lara Spencer were key players. Of that supporting cast only Spencer remains. Champion departed -- under somewhat mysterious circumstances -- for a morning show on the Weather Channel (which is like giving up a job at The New York Times to write for Highlights). Elliot left abruptly with an announced destination of NBC Sports, but his ultimate landing spot may be Today.

Champion is now part of the NBC family as Comcast owns The Weather Channel, as is Elliot who will ostensibly be working for the sports division. Deadline reports that Elliot's previous ABC deal prevents him from appearing on Today for six months.  That's not a long time in TV years and that makes him available for the gig in November when Today co-host Savvanah Guthrie returns from maternity leave.

"NBC needs someone else besides Willie Geist ready to take over for Matt Lauer when his contract runs out," Roger Friedman at ShowBiz411 wrote.  "With the ratings in such bad shape, it's unlikely that Lauer will continue with Today past 2014. Right now, all they have is Geist, and he's not ready."

Elliot likely priced himself out of a job at GMA where he had reportedly been asking for a raise from around $1 million per year to $10 million, Deadline reported.

How big are mornings for the networks?

In 2011 when Today was still the leader the program collected $485 million in ad revenue, The Wall Street Journal reported . GMA brought in $299 million that year. Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research at Kantar, told The Journal the difference in ad dollars reflects higher prices for a spot on Today.

In 2012 Kantar estimated that the ABC show had climbed a bit in ad dollars to $318 million while NBC's show grew to $515 million partially because it was able to offer advertisers package deals that include the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. hours of the show. 

Though 2013 numbers have not been reported yet, ABC ad buyers did use their show's new status as the ratings leader to win more ad dollars during the up-fronts (the time before a TV season when ad packages are sold), The Hollywood Reporter said.

NBC has managed to steady its ship after the Curry debacle and the thing that brought GMA to the top -- the fact that its cast appeared to like each other -- now seems to not be true any more with Champion and Elliot both jumping ship. If Today can elegantly swap Elliot for Lauer it could conceivably reclaim the throne.

Will Josh Elliot take Matt Lauer's spot?

With Lauer's deal expiring in 2015 it's unlikely he will be forced out but also unlikely he will want to continue or that NBC will want to pay him anything close to the $25 million he reportedly makes in his current deal.

"We hope that he wants to last out at least this contract on the Today show," NBC News Group chairman Patricia Fili-Krushel  told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that she'd "keep Matt Lauer as long as he wants to stay."

That sounds nice but Lauer damaged his reputation and his standing with viewers during the Curry incident and while the network may not force him out the two sides are likely to negotiate a graceful departure (think Meredith Viera's celebratory exit). The host may stay with NBC in another capacity or he may end up working elsewhere, but it's unlikely Lauer spends much, if any, of 2015 at Today.

Elliot was not hired for some vague job at NBC Sports. Given than Deadline reported ABC had a deal worth $4 million to $5 million on the table for the host, you can assume NBC is paying him north of $5 million per year, and unless your name is Bob Costas you're not getting paid that much to work for NBC Sports.

Expect Elliot to be slowly introduced to the NBC family and for him to be at least appearing on -- if not hosting -- Today as soon as he is legally able. That plus the seeming dysfunction at GMA may once again put the Today show back on top. 

Are you ready to profit from this $14.4 trillion revolution?
Let's face it, every investor wants to get in on revolutionary ideas before they hit it big. Like buying PC-maker Dell in the late 1980s, before the consumer computing boom. Or purchasing stock in e-commerce pioneer Amazon.com in the late 1990s, when it was nothing more than an upstart online bookstore. The problem is, most investors don't understand the key to investing in hyper-growth markets. The real trick is to find a small-cap "pure-play" and then watch as it grows in EXPLOSIVE lockstep with its industry. Our expert team of equity analysts has identified one stock that's poised to produce rocket-ship returns with the next $14.4 TRILLION industry. Click here to get the full story in this eye-opening report.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers