Programming

Many NBC Affiliates Would Prefer Curry in New Role

Local partners hope 'Today' brand strong enough to withstand shakeup 6/27/2012 02:31:04 PM Eastern

While NBC affiliates say they know no more about the fluid Today anchor situation than anyone else
who reads the trades and New York Times,
they nonetheless have strong opinions about how NBC should handle its anchor
switch at the morning TV monolith. Ann Curry, reportedly negotiating a new role
that would remove her from Today
co-anchor duties, enjoys substantial respect at the local level for her news
chops, but not so much for her handling of the fuzzy segments her current job
requires.

And that has hurt Today
-- and, by extension, the local NBC stations.

Curry was news anchor on Today
from 1997 until stepping up to co-anchor in June 2011. Many affiliates believe
she will best serve the network, and its partner stations, back in a hard-news
capacity.

"She's such a great international reporter," says
Dale Woods, president and general manager of WHO Des Moines. "If she's put
back in that role, that feels great...if that's where it's going."

The NBC affiliates have heard nothing from the network about
changes to frontline talent at the venerable franchise, and several station
chiefs were reluctant to speak on the record, including affiliates board
chairman Jordan Wertlieb, until things are official.

But several say the
problems at Today, which has famously
seen its lead over ABC's Good Morning
America
shrink in recent months, will continue until a change is made. They
echo the oft-uttered charge that Curry and Matt Lauer lack chemistry, believe
she does not successfully connect with female viewers, and say Curry is too
rigid on the show's frilly bits.

"The thing we look for in television is chemistry,
chemistry, chemistry," says one East Coast GM at an NBC station who asked
to not be named. "I'm looking at Hoda and Kathie right now, and that's an
incredibly good example. They obviously enjoy each other and finish each
other's sentences. We just don't have that [with Matt and Ann]."

Curry's successor is a key hire, to say the least, for NBC
News. Some general managers say the move can benefit NBC News in two ways:
bring the spark back to the Today
sofa, and reestablish Curry -- no stranger to global hotspots such as Darfur
and the Congo -- as an authoritative voice on giant stories around the world.

"She's a tremendous talent," says Woods. "Any
international thing that goes on, you can count on her to be there the next
day."

Third-hour host Savannah Guthrie is said to have been
offered the big job. Affiliates cite her intelligence and likeability. Pat
Dalbey, president and general manager of WLEX Lexington, admits to a bit of
bias, as he and Guthrie worked together at KMIZ Columbia (Mo.) early in her
career.

"I think Savannah will be fine," he says.
"She is very versatile and extremely smart and has a great personality
that will wear well over time."

Others have reservations about Guthrie's relatively young
age, which is 40. "There's no doubt she's talented, but I'm not sure she's
the right fit when it comes to interviewing world leaders," says one
Midwestern GM. "Matt can't do all of that."

To be sure, some NBC affiliates say their lead is so strong
in mornings that they are unfazed by the drama at 30 Rock. "If it ain't
broke, don't fix it, is how I see it," says one midsize-market GM.

Others express resounding confidence in NBC News president
Steve Capus and Today executive producer
Jim Bell to fix whatever needs fixing at Today.
They sympathize with those men for having to handle such a sensitive issue with
Curry, who is very popular within the news division.

"I have a lot of admiration for them," says Brooke
Spectorsky, president and general manager at WKYC Cleveland. "However it
works out, whatever the details, I'm sure it will be positive for
everybody."

NBC affiliates take heart that the Today brand has been so strong for so long-and is much larger than
any of its talent. "I trust NBC to do the right thing to protect the
franchise," says Chris Mossman, vice president and general manager at WITN
Greenville (N.C.). "They appear to be making adjustments while still on
top."

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