#PRFail: NBC Strikes Out on Meet the Press Announcement

david gregory

“Where is the love, the love, the love?”

It was the worst-kept secret in network TV, but after months of speculation NBC finally announced yesterday that Chuck Todd would indeed take over for David Gregory as the host of the Sunday morning coffee gathering known as Meet the Press.

In case you missed it, NBC has a history of mismanaging personnel announcements. Does the name Ann Curry ring a bell?

Some backstory: Alex Wallace took over Meet the Press in January amid falling ratings, and speculation about Gregory’s exit began almost immediately. Todd, who reportedly campaigned for the gig in 2008 when it went to his now-predecessor, was the most obvious choice. And yet…

In an interview with The Huffington Post back in March, Gregory said “I see speculation out there. I just try to pay attention to the stuff I know is real”, and Wallace was even more emphatic:

“I cannot be more declarative about David — is our guy, is going to be our guy, and we are really happy with him…we’re doubling down on David Gregory right now.”

This aggressive defense may have stemmed from the news, reported the day of that interview, that the network had hired a “psychological consultant” to figure out why people weren’t watching Gregory’s show.

Still, NBC President Deborah Turness pushed back, calling the rumors of Gregory’s pending exit “vindictive, personal and above all – untrue.

But those rumors kept coming.

In July, “sources” at NBC told Page Six that Gregory wouldn’t be around much longer but that the network was simply waiting to determine whether to can him before or after the coming midterm elections. NBC’s official response:

“We heard the same false rumors and suggest you take them with a grain of salt, as we did.”

Maybe that should have been two or even three grains of salt. On Thursday, someone told CNN’s Brian Stelter that the announcement was imminent, but they didn’t manage to get that one right either. Our sister blog TVNewser was the first source to publish a full note from Turness explaining that Chuck Todd would indeed be taking over.

Guess who beat her to it by 40 minutes. That’s right: David Gregory.

As for the reasoning behind the Todd hire, here’s Walker Sands copywriter/Meet the Press fan Emily Johnson:

As an avid Meet the Press watcher and Chuck Todd fan, I think Chuck Todd will be a much better addition to MTP…they are trying to appeal to a younger audience and Todd has a lot of advantages. He’s a numbers guy and has been rising up the ranks at MSNBC for the last 5+ years. I think younger generations appreciate statistics and hard facts, and that’s Chuck’s strong suite.

David Gregory was so blase’ and you could tell starting a few weeks ago that he was trying to save his job because he spoke a lot more enthusiastically and was trying to be more confrontational with his guests, especially regarding the recent Israel-Palestine conflict. If you watch the Daily Run Down with Chuck Todd, he’s more natural when he pushes back on guests and will not let you circumvent a question, like Gregory typically would.

Also, MTP used to be one of the no. 1 news shows but recently had it’s lowest ratings ever with Gregory. This is huge for a news organization, and it was due to a big push to get younger newscasters and content (esp. digital content) that appeals to younger demographics.

We love Johnson’s take, but we have no real explanation for NBC’s inability to control the message. In a follow-up interview, Turness said, “The time had come for this to happen [because] the numbers just didn’t move”…which is what everyone else had been saying for months.