NBC Affiliates Express ‘Today’ Concerns

By Alex Weprin 

Yesterday evening NBC announced a new role for “Today” executive producer Jim Bell at NBC Sports, and reports trickled out about new leadership at the morning show.

As it happens, B&C’s Michael Malone talked to a number of NBC affiliates in the days leading up to the move, and found that there is no consensus as to why the program has been struggling of late, but that the affiliates are optimistic the network will turn it around (subscription required).

“I think NBC News gets painted with the same broad MSNBC brush, fair or not,” [WSAZ Charleston-Huntington W. Va GM Don] Ray says. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 10 weeks before the election, people turned away to watch something else.”

Others deride what they say is a softer mix of content on Today. “My news director would prefer it to be more heavy news than fluffier—he and I have had that conversation,” says Derek Rogers, general manager at WMGT Macon (Ga.), who adds that he has not seen a difference.

Most feel it’s a personnel issue— that Ann Curry’s Today promotion, and subsequent departure, was mishandled; that Matt Lauer was dinged up in the imbroglio; and that Savannah Guthrie hasn’t yet won her way into America’s bedrooms and family rooms. “I believe they simply went through transition/growing pains after Meredith’s departure that exposed weaknesses in their legacy dominance,” says Evan Pappas, president/ general manager at KOAA Colorado Springs, who expresses “great confidence” in the Today brain trust getting things moving.