Mornings have suddenly become the most interesting time slot on TV, and it’s not because Hoda and Kathie Lee have discovered a new cocktail. With new celebrity feuds, gossip about anchors’ contracts, and a major ratings upset, these days what’s happening behind the scenes is far more interesting than what’s on air.
The biggest news is that after 16 years and 852 weeks, the Today Show lost its top ratings spot to Good Morning America. Preliminary Nielsen data shows that GMA beat Today by 13,000 viewers for the week ending April 13.
Today executive producer Jim Bell wasn’t bitter in his response, saying of his team, “we tip our caps to the team at Good Morning America,” and adding, “While the streak has been wonderful affirmation of our work, it has never defined us, and we will continue to innovate, take chances and lead the way.”
Though the Today staff can’t be happy about GMA closing the ratings gap, the loss actually proves that anchor Matt Lauer is one of the most valuable assets in morning TV. NBC just signed a contract giving Lauer a reported $25 million annual salary for four more years, and it appears he’s worth every penny.
The ratings shift is very bad news for Lauer’s co-anchor, Ann Curry. For weeks rumors have been circulating that her days at Today are numbered, and apparently she wasn’t enough of a draw to keep viewers from flipping to ABC.
Curry isn’t the only one on thin ice at NBC. Kathy Griffin has been “re-banned” from the Today Show. Griffin explains, “Over the years since Suddenly Susan in 1996, I have been banned and re-banned from the Today Show by several people. Katie Couric at one point. Matt Lauer at one point. This time my camp heard that it was actually Natalie Morales — who is on the show, I don’t even know if she’s the co-host, I think she reads the news.” Supposedly the feud started when Griffin snubbed Morales at the Golden Globes, but the comedian doesn’t remember receiving an interview request. Griffin is launching a Bravo talk show, which like NBC is owned by Comcast, and she jokes that this is an example of “synergy in action.”
As if that isn’t enough drama for one perky morning show, Today is also battling Alec Baldwin. Last week he railed against the show on Twitter for camping out outside of his apartment to report on his alleged stalker’s arrest. Baldwin declared that he’s “leaving NBC just in time,” but now he’s clarified that he’ll still be on the network’s payroll for another year. Tina Fey hinted on The View that the “end is on the horizon” for 30 Rock, and on Monday Baldwin confirmed that he’ll stay on the show for the seventh and final season.