Photo: NBC / Today Show screencap
“Today” show executive producer Jim Bell is speaking out for the first time since a record-low ratings summer and the ousting of anchor Ann Curry.After months of losing in the ratings race for the first time in 16 years to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Bell tells The New York Times it’s because of the difference in the shows’ approaches—saying “Today” is a “more serious show” while “GMA” is “doing something else.”
Asked if he was suggesting “GMA” was a more tabloid-style program, Bell confirmed, “That’s what I’m saying.”
Meanwhile, the “Today” show was the only morning program to ignore a moment of silence in honour of the anniversary of 9/11 and instead aired an interview with Kris Jenner discussing breast implants.
But the numbers speak for themselves. According to the NYT:
“GMA” has won the last six weeks by margins ranging from 255,000 viewers to 883,000. It has also beaten “Today” by increasingly sizable margins in the category most important to advertisers, viewers ages 25 to 54. Last week, “GMA” won that group by 234,000 viewers, its biggest edge since it took over first place.
A rep for ABC News simply told the NYT, “I think the audience has spoken loud and clear about its preference in the morning.”
Photo: NBC / Today screencap
And Ann Curry’s June ousting from the show’s co-anchor position hasn’t helped increase NBC’s morning ratings, either, as “Today” is still trailing behind “GMA” long after her departure.But Bell says he doesn’t regret his decision to remove Curry from the top spot opposite Matt Lauer.
“Ann had earned it,” Bell explained to the NYT. “You can sit there and think this or that, but we’re comfortable with that decision (to previously make her anchor) and the one we’ve made now.”
Curry is now a special correspondent for “Today,” reporting mainly on international news—a role Bell says Curry is “naturally suited for.”
But despite rumours that it was Lauer who wanted Curry out, Bell says that is simply not the case.
“It was definitely not Matt’s call,” Bell told the paper. “He is the host and does not have management responsibility. It was not his call. That was my call.”
And in response to recent reports of Lauer’s diva behaviour behind-the-scenes, Bell sets the record straight, saying, “These stories portraying Matt in a negative light are just preposterous. Matt is the heart and soul of the broadcast. He has a heart of gold. This stuff about him has been very irresponsible and in a lot of cases flat-out wrong.”
Bell adds that reports of “Today” show budget and salary cuts, due to Lauer’s alleged $25 million a year contract, are also false. “There is no plan for any cutbacks of layoffs for any of the staff … that could not be more wrong.”
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