Maybe the real problem at 'Today' is Matt Lauer
The embattled co-host says a 'dark' tone damaged its ratings. Critics see the problem more about the messenger than the message.
"Today" may be NBC's prize TV program, but it has taken a battering during the past 12 months. Once at the top of the ratings game, "Today" has fallen from its perch, although it says it has a blueprint to restore luster to the peacock's feathers. Now owned by Comcast (CMCSA), NBC sure needs the help.
What's the plan? A lighter, more uplifting tone, co-host Matt Lauer tells the Daily Beast. But critics say the bigger problem is Lauer himself, who was tarnished by the ouster of former co-host Ann Curry, with some viewers blaming him for her poor treatment.
According to Lauer, though, "Today" suffered because of a tabloid-like approach, covering lurid crimes and celebrity scandals. "The show got a little dour and depressing and dark," said Lauer, who depicts himself as fighting against the coverage. "I’ll be perfectly blunt: I was losing a lot of those battles. We were driving a certain kind of viewer away."
One thing's certain: "Today" has driven away a lot of viewers, but Lauer's explanation appears to cover only part of the story.
Some fans put the onus on Lauer, with viewers taking potshots at what they say is a huge ego and an even bigger multimillion-dollar paycheck. However, he tells the Daily Beast he actually urged his bosses to slow down.
But Lauer's confessional tone in the Daily Beast interview -- he claims he offered to quit if it would help the show -- is backfiring, with critics calling him "phony" and "misguided." Lauer's decreasing popularity is going to be hard to fix. His Q score, or a measure of a celebrity's likability, plunged by 25% last fall in the wake of Curry's ouster.
"Today" has continued to lose out to ABC's "Good Morning America." The Disney-owned (DIS) network's show has benefited from the popularity of anchor Robin Roberts, whose struggle with a rare illness and recovery have made viewers sympathetic.
As a result, "Good Morning America" won its morning slot in February's sweeps for the first time in 20 years, bumping "Today" from the top.
But it doesn't appear Lauer is going anywhere, despite a report earlier this month that some executives were discussing his role. Last fall, when he told NBC Universal Chief Executive Steve Burke that he would quit, Burke said he wouldn't hear of it.
"You’re the best person who’s ever done this," Burke said, according to the Daily Beast. "We’ll get through this." Maybe Lauer will get through it, but it's unclear how many viewers will stick around to watch.
Matt has become a huge celebrity, and now takes himself WAY too seriously. He is rude to many of his guests he is interviewing, sometimes even hostile. Arrogant little you-know-what.
NBC is just as bad for creating the monster, and their terrible treatment of Ann Curry (after all, who put her there with Matt to begin with? Why not punish THAT person?).
Search ways to entice us to come back to Today, bring in short "boost"- to kill the boring segments.
Matt's there's always the National Enquirer.
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