Hoda Kotb Takes Over as Co-Anchor of NBC's 'Today' Show -- Update
By Joe Flint
NBC has tapped veteran "Today" show personality Hoda Kotb as permanent co-anchor of the morning program's 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. block, following the firing of Matt Lauer for sexual misconduct.
Ms. Kotb has been filling in as co-anchor with Savannah Guthrie since Mr. Lauer was removed from the show on Nov. 29. She will continue to co-host the 10 a.m. hour of "Today" with Kathie Lee Gifford.
In a memo to staff, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said, "Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running. They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of `Today.' "
Since Ms. Kotb joined the 7 a.m. block of "Today," ratings for the show have risen, according to Nielsen data. The program has overtaken its arch rival, "Good Morning America," which airs on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, in total viewers and continues to win among viewers aged 25-54.
An Oklahoma native, Ms. Kotb, 53, started her journalism career in local television in Mississippi after graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She spent six years at WWL-TV in New Orleans before joining NBC News in 1998 as a correspondent for its newsmagazine show, "Dateline."
Since 2008, she has co-hosted the light and breezy fourth hour of "Today" with Ms. Gifford. Ms. Kotb also hosts a radio show on SiriusXM and is the author of the 2010 book, "Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee."
"Today" is one of the most important programs for Comcast Corp.'s NBC, generating annual revenue north of $500 million, according to people close to the show. While ratings for the show have declined in recent years, it remains a key revenue source for NBC News.
Mr. Lauer's abrupt departure after an investigation into a complaint from a network staffer stunned "Today" colleagues. A co-anchor for more than 20 years, he was seen as a vital cog for the show and a face of morning television who would be hard to replace.
Mr. Lauer apologized after his firing, but contested some of the accounts of his behavior. He said there were "no words" to express the sorrow and regret for the pain he caused.
Ratings for the show haven't collapsed without him. While some of the initial ratings spike following his departure could be attributed to viewer curiosity, the show continues to outperform what it was doing with Mr. Lauer.
"Today" now becomes the only morning show with two women anchors. However, it isn't the first morning show to try that strategy; "Good Morning America" was once co-anchored by Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts. The primary audience for morning shows is women.
NBC isn't the only network with a morning show in transition due to a sexual-harassment scandal. Charlie Rose was dropped as longtime co-anchor of "CBS This Morning" after reports of inappropriate behavior spanning many years related to his work on the "Charlie Rose" show, which was produced by Charlie Rose Inc. and aired on PBS member stations and Bloomberg Television. Mr. Rose expressed remorse for his actions, but questioned the accuracy of some allegations. CBS hasn't named his permanent replacement.
When Ms. Guthrie announced Mr. Lauer's departure on the air in November, she was joined behind the desk by Ms. Kotb, and the two were largely praised for their handling of the surprise announcement.
"This has to be the most popular decision NBC News has ever made, and I am so thrilled," Ms. Guthrie said during Tuesday's show. "Hoda, you are a partner and a friend and a sister, and I am so happy to be doing this."
"I'm pinching myself," Ms. Kotb said during the show.
Allison Prang contributed to this article.
Write to Joe Flint at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections & Amplifications
This article was corrected at 12:15 p.m. ET to show that Virginia Tech is short for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The original version called it Virginia Tech University.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 03, 2018 12:10 ET (17:10 GMT)Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.