NBC has secured its Today show franchise for the foreseeable future, signing anchor Matt Lauer to a multiyear renewal.
The 54-year-old Lauer formally announced the deal during Friday’s broadcast.
“Truth be told, I was developing an idea for a new show where viewers could tune in every morning and see someone they know lose a little more of his hair every single day,” Lauer cracked. “So I thought, ‘I don’t have to do that; I can just stay here and do that.’”
Shifting into sincerity mode, Lauer told co-anchor Ann Curry and weatherman Al Roker that Today is a family affair, adding, “I love this job, I love working with you guys and all the people behind the scenes. I’m excited—let’s keep going.”
After a round of applause, Roker joked that NBC could have done much worse than re-upping the 15-year Today linchpin. “Thank goodness, because it was either you or Keith Olbermann!” Roker said, before breaking into the former Current TV host’s “Worst Person in the World” catch phrase.
Lauer’s announcement was followed by Curry’s interview with the criminally underexposed Kim Kardashian.
Stability is in short supply at NBC, so shoring up the morning tent pole was a crucial bit of business. Today has ruled the ratings roost for 16 years, although of late the show has seen its lead whittled away by ABC’s Good Morning America.
A year ago, Today delivered nearly 650,000 more viewers than GMA. Last week, that advantage was pared down to just shy of 120,000 viewers. (CBS This Morning is a distant third, drawing roughly half the viewers Today delivers every morning.)
Last year, rumor had Lauer leaving Today to join his former co-anchor Katie Couric on her new syndicated talk show. His job was also said to be teed up for the ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest.
Lauer and his Today cohorts this week have gone head-to-head with Couric, who on Friday wrapped a five-day guest stint on GMA. On Wednesday, the ABC program edged Today in total viewers.
While terms of the deal were not disclosed, estimates put Lauer’s newly adjusted salary at around $25 million per year, up from $17 million.
As the dominant player in morning news, Today enjoys a substantial advantage in ad sales. According to Kantar Media, Today last year raked in $454.6 million in sponsor revenue, around 45 percent more than GMA ($314 million).