'Today' Names Fourth Hour Hosts

NBC taps Ann Curry, Natalie Morales, Hoda Kotb for anchor spotlight
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Ann Curry, Natalie Morales and Hoda Kotb will host the fourth hour of NBC's Today, according to people familiar with the decision.

There also will be a rotating roster of guest hosts that will include Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis (already contributing correspondent for the show) as well as erstwhile New York Giant running back Tiki Barber, who became a Today correspondent in April.

The network is expected to make an official announcement on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The fourth hour of Today, long planned to squeeze more dollars from the morning, launches Sept. 11.

(Today co-hosts Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer will not have a role in the fourth hour. Vieira is precluded from appearing on the network beyond 10 a.m. as part of the non-compete clause in her contract as the host of the syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.)

Curry—Today news-anchor and co-host of the network's primetime newsmagazine Dateline—and Morales—a national correspondent on the show who frequently fills in at the news desk—were expected to have prominent roles on the fourth hour. Kotb, a correspondent on Dateline, has not previously been in the mix, although her duties as host of the weekly syndicated Your Total Health make her well-suited for morning TV, where health and lifestyle segments are prominent. Kotb has been a Dateline correspondent since 1998. She began hosting Your Total Health in 2004.

NBC News clearly hopes to capitalize on its still lucrative morning franchise, which pulls in as much as $450 million a year in revenue.

But morning television has been in a state of flux of late with anchor changes taking a toll at Today and at perennial No. 2 Good Morning America. Today has seen its audience decline 6% year to year while Good Morning America—which was within 413,000 viewers of Today for the week of July 30, according to Nielsen—is down 2%.

Although a distant No. 3, CBS' Early Show is up 1%. The CBS morning show will attempt to grow its audience even further by abandoning its current blended format, which lets about 40 affiliates insert local content into the first hour of the show, in January. The long-standing agreement with affiliates has made it difficult for the Early Show to establish a national profile.

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