Alex Veeneman, Assistant News Editor
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
This time last year, morning TV in the United States was dominated by NBC’s “The Today Show,” consistently beating its competitors, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning.” It was a ratings hit with its mix of hard news and features with personalities familiar to much of the American public — Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Ann Curry, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Al Roker, with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford presenting the fourth hour.
However, Curry was dismissed from the show last year in what turned out to be a well-publicized error for NBC. Her departure appeared to be because of backstage tensions and a growing indifference from Lauer where executives still struggled to find out why Curry was upset, according to a piece in The New York Times magazine.
Curry’s departure was not only a mismanaged move on the part of NBC, but also a move that cost them viewers. A mere 24 hours after the debacle, “Good Morning America” had trumped Today as the highest-rated morning show in the country. A record of 16 years at the top was broken.
Executives at NBC have been scrambling to figure out how to recover those lost viewers and to regain the top spot. As a result, on Sept. 16, viewers saw significant changes and an addition to Today’s cast.
The set on Studio 1A at NBC’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York appeared with new colors and a new layout format. The new cast member would be Carson Daly, a presenter on the program “The Voice.” Daly would be in the Orange Room, examining social media reactions to segments on the program and to the day’s issues.
Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, said she was optimistic about the changes and that Today could bring lost viewers back.
“This is a content-led strategy,” Turness said according to a report from The New York Times, adding that three buzzwords for Today would be substance, uplift and connection. “We have the right team and the best team to deliver that strategy.”
It isn’t clear if the strategy Turness had in mind is working. NBC did not respond to an interview request for this column or a request for ratings information.
Today is now trying to find its footing after losing track of a year. Yet, whatever decisions are made by NBC to get the program back on track will be without success, as the adjustments suggest the Today program is a different program and not the one many viewers expect. When Curry was dismissed last year, it was a signal that Today had come to an end.
Unless there is something monumental that happens on the program, there is no hope for Today returning to the top spot, as viewers will continue to flock to ABC to say “Good Morning America.”
The difference Today makes is no more.