NBC on Friday made it official, announcing it has tapped Savannah Guthrie as the new co-anchor of the Today show. The confirmation comes just one day after Ann Curry made her tearful exit.
Guthrie has hosted Today’s 9 a.m. hour since June 2011 and is NBC News’ chief legal correspondent, a role she will continue to hold down after she takes her seat on the couch next to Matt Lauer.
While Guthrie filled in for Curry on this morning’s show, no official word of her succession was made on the air. Neither Guthrie nor Lauer commented on her presence, and her name was not announced at the start of the broadcast.
Today executive producer Jim Bell said Guthrie has the Swiss Army Knife skill set necessary to co-host the show, which ping pongs from hard news reportage to goofy promotional fluff.
“She has a one-of-a-kind combination of sharp wit and approachability, and our viewers value her journalistic skills and legal background just as much as her humor and charm,” Bell said. “She can effortlessly go from interviewing the Secretary of State to jumping Olympic-sized hurdles on the Plaza.”
Prior to joining Today, Guthrie served as NBC News’ White House Correspondent. She first arrived at 30 Rock in September 2007, after having served as legal affairs correspondent and national trial correspondent for the now-defunct cable network Court TV.
Guthrie’s elevation to Today co-anchor concludes the very public, very messy saga of Curry’s ouster. She steps in as Today faces the first significant ratings heat in 16 years.
Season-to-date, Today’s lead over ABC’s Good Morning America has been whittled down to just 375,000 total viewers. Last week, the show averaged 4.59 million total viewers, leading GMA by a margin of 133,000.
GMA is also breathing down Today’s neck among adults 25-to-54. That said, NBC has yet to actually lose its advantage in the advertiser-coveted demo; as of last week, Today had racked up 895 straight weekly victories in the only race that matters.
The transition comes on the eve of NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. On Wednesday, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told reporters that the London Olympics would serve to help “revitalize the Today show.”
As has been the case with every NBC-curated Olympics, Today will air live from the host city. Former Today co-host (and Curry’s predecessor) Meredith Vieira will serve as a special correspondent, co-hosting the opening ceremonies with Lauer and Bob Costas.
Curry will also travel to London, where she will serve as a correspondent.
For those who favor Curry’s brand of substance over style, her farewell on Thursday was not easy to watch. “Today is going to be my last morning as regular co-host of Today,” said Curry, who began tearing up as soon as she began delivering her brief valediction. “This is not how I expected to ever leave this couch after 15 years, but I am so grateful…For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line, but, man, I did try!”