NBC has a succession crisis on its hands.
While we’re told that ousted anchor Matt Lauer’s intense, long-running jealousy over potential rivals has left the network with no male contenders for his empty chair, a disastrous November sweeps means that the network’s banner hire, Megyn Kelly, isn’t a viable replacement either.
Industry insiders say that during his 20-year tenure at morning show “Today,” Lauer — who was booted last week after he was accused of sexually harassing colleagues — was so ruthless in maintaining his spot as the golden boy of NBC that “Matt killed off, in their infancy, every man who could succeed him at the time that he was ready to hang it up — so there’s nobody to take his place. And now NBC is paying the price.”
We’re told that Lauer’s maneuverings have ensured that potential heirs including David Gregory, Josh Elliott and Billy Bush never got a shot at being groomed for the gig. (Before Bush was brought down by the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape with Donald Trump, he was already in Lauer’s sights.)
As a result, the male front-runner is Craig Melvin, a “Weekend Today” host of whom one network exec said, “I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.”
Meanwhile, we’re told that Kelly isn’t a viable savior for NBC. She was hired by the network amid great fanfare for a reported $23 million a year, but she just had the worst November sweeps ratings of any in the history of the 9 a.m. hour of “Today” — across all demos.
The all-important quarterly measurements of viewers tend to be higher in November than in July, when fewer people are watching TV in general, so the news that Kelly’s numbers were lower in November than in July is particularly hair-raising for execs. Kelly took over in September.
But network sources insist that Kelly doesn’t want Lauer’s old gig anyway. They also said Kelly has grown her audience since the show premiered. We’re told that Hoda Kotb will continue to fill in for Lauer “in the short term.”