Are Matt Lauer's days on the TODAY couch numbered? A new piece in The New York Times delves into the morning show's continued ratings slump as it languishes in the number two spot behind rival Good Morning America -- and suggests that the network is seriously considering replacing co-anchor Lauer, 55.
During a recent staff meeting, the Times reports, an executive told the staffers of the embattled show: "What matters most is the anchor connection to the audience; what we need to work on is the connection."
"What they meant was Matt," a staff member told the Times. "But no one would say it." Lauer, whom some blame for the messy departure of co-anchor Ann Curry back in June, has seen his "Q Score," a measure of TV likability, plummet from 19 in September 2011 to 9 this January. Rumors continue to circulate that Lauer could be replaced by fellow TODAY stars Willie Geist or David Gregory.
In response to the Times piece, a show source tells Us Weekly: "NBC News has no plans to replace Matt Lauer. Everyone at the show hopes he stays for many years to come." As for the account of the staff meeting, in which Lauer's "anchor connection to the audience" was supposedly called into question? "The connection they were referring to was the connection viewers like to see between anchors and the stories on the show," the source argues.
In a recent Daily Beast interview, Lauer finally opened up about Curry's departure and the ensuing bad press, concurring that the network didn't handle the "transition" as well as it could have. In the story, other network executives defended Lauer, and insisted he was not responsible for Curry's exit.
A rep for NBC News had no comment about the Times story.