Megyn Kelly and Ann Curry have both been named as possible replacements for Matt Lauer. But both women would be a horrible choice, for very different reasons.
Megyn Kelly's ratings unexpectedly jumped in October and November as she moved from sugar-sweet topics to hard-hitting news. Recent sexual harassment claims and quality interviews on the topic finally allowed her to find a groove. But the blond beauty is not the right fit for the earlier hour of Today.
Though Matt Lauer was a dynamic force for two decades, it was other media veterans who really created sizzle: Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel. Couric was a bubbly personality that could easily transition from cooking segments to breaking news. Gumbel was a buttoned-up intellectual who was happy to share a laugh. They complemented one another perfectly. And women across the country adored Couric.
“Morning shows are all about easing the audience into their day,” Jon Klein, a former president of CNN in the U.S., told Bloomberg. “A good smooth chemistry among the team members is essential. Now the chemistry is disrupted.”
Since Couric announced her departure for CBS in April 2006, the Today show has rarely had the same sizzle. But Meredith Vieira, Natalie Morales and Savannah Guthrie have come close — especially when they found a middle ground between giggly and glamorous.
From the start Ann Curry was too buttoned-up for the time slot. And Megyn Kelly quickly faltered when NBC tried to put hot pink sweaters and big poufy skirts on her in the early weeks of her show.
Savannah Guthrie is as sweet as they come. So the Today show doesn't need another Couric. What the Today show does need is another Bryant Gumbel. Intellectual, solid and safe. Despite the storm of sexual harassment and assault claims in recent months, a man would likely be the right choice here. Hollywood Take's choices? Willie Geist, Craig Melvin or Carson Daly.
As Variety noted, "after the Lauer implosion, the safe choice [Craig Melvin] might be the smartest option." The website also liked Geist as a potential replacement, saying: "If Joe and Mika can live without him, Geist may be moving to a different part of 30 Rock."
Another safe choice? Stepping away from the two-anchor format and opting instead for a team dynamic where no two people are essential to the show.
"The position of the famous-name celebrity journalist who's at the top of the pyramid and making an enormous amount of money: Will that be replicated?" Andrew Tyndall, a longtime network-news analyst, asked in USA Today. "Or will the show move to a team format, where it won't have to live or die depending on the behavior of the host?"
After Regis Philbin left morning television, few thought Kelly Ripa would be able to maintain the ratings. But the opposite occurred.
The demise of Matt Lauer's career may be a blessing in disguise for NBC. Turning 60 in December, Lauer is hardly the right man to appeal to millennial moms. In the Snapchat and Instagram generation, the Today show could benefit from a younger version of Lauer or Gumbel. And that is certainly not Megyn Kelly.
For a month or two countless viewers will tune in without Lauer to see what the show is like without the disgraced anchor. But what will happen after the buzz dies down?
"Today has been the top-rated morning show among 25- to 54-year-olds, the key demographic for advertisers, for much of the past two years, but its audience is starting to decline. Total viewership for the program is down 10 percent year to date, according to Nielsen, and it has been eclipsed by ABC’s Good Morning America among audiences of all ages. NBC has tried to boost ratings by adding former Fox News host Megyn Kelly to its third hour, but her viewership has been lackluster," Bloomberg reported.
Make no mistake, though. Today is still a huge profit generator for the company. The morning show brought in $508 million in advertising revenue last year, according to Kantar Media.
The Today show has a huge opportunity. What do you think they'll do?