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Posted at 12:46 AM ET, 04/06/2012

Matt Lauer closes new contract with NBC’s ‘Today’ show [UPDATED]

Matt Lauer capped off a week competing against his old “Today” show partner Katie Couric by announcing he has signed a new contract and will remain anchor-in-chief of the morning infotainment show.


“Today” show co-host Matt Lauer and Gov. Sarah Palin talk politics on NBC News’ “Today” show. (NBC NewsWire - Peter Kramer/NBC)
“There is a huge bit of great news, this morning,” his co-anchor Ann Curry said about 10 minutes into Friday’s show. “Matt, I’m excited to announce that you’re going to stick with us. We’re stuck with you. For a long time.”

“Truth be told I was developing an idea for a new show in which people could tune in every morning and see someone they know lose a little more of this hair every day in front of their eyes,” Matt said. “I decided I can stay here to do that. This is my family. I love this job, love working with you guys and all the people behind the scenes. I’m excited – let’s keep this going.”

“Thank goodness, cause it was either you or Keith Olbermann!” cracked “Today” weatherman Al Roker. Then Al looked into the camera and channeled Olbermann: “You are the WORST PERSON in the WORLD!”

The “Today” gang giggled and moved on — it was a very busy morning for the morning infotainment show: Kim Kardashian was waiting to be interviewed; Nicki Minaj was waiting to perform.

NBC news confirmed late Thursday Lauer would announce he’s signed up for another tour of duty. That’s considered good news for NBC. Lauer, who has been with the show since ’94, is seen as one of the best parts of the program, which has maintained its weekly ratings lead for more than 16 years, but which has seen that lead over ABC’s second-placed “Good Morning America” whittled away to as few as 119,000 viewers just last week – “GMA’s” closest competitive position in seven years.

Last year, same week, “Today” enjoyed a nearly half a million more viewers than “GMA.” Last week, “GMA” actually scored more viewers than “Today” on Tuesday and Friday.

Last spring there was press speculation about Lauer joining Couric on her new syndicated talk show for Disney, which is launching this fall. But even then Lauer forecast he’d stick where he is.

All this week Lauer has been competing against Couric, who has been substitute anchoring on “GMA” whose network is owned by Disney. In response, “Today” show enlisted the help of Sarah Palin and Ryan Seacrest. On Tuesday, the former governor of Alaska “guest-hosted” the show – which meant she appeared in virtually every scene of the 8 a.m. hour. The Palin broadcast handily beat Couric in that morning’s ratings.

But Wednesday, when “Today’s” big “get” was Ryan Seacrest,
Matt Lauer, second from left, talks to Ryan Seacrest, right, one of the “Today” show’s big “gets” for the week. (NBC)
announcing he’d joined the NBC “family” and his first assignment would be to help cover the Summer Olympics, Couric claimed a one-day win, with 5.24 million viewers to “Today’s” 5.15 mil.

It’s been widely speculated Seacrest will be groomed to eventually replace Lauer, and the two stage-joked about it during Wednesday’s interview:

“What kind of conversations have you had with NBC officials about joining the ‘Today’ show?” Lauer asked Seacrest.

“Oh. Didn’t they tell you?” Seacrest, grinned as laughter was heard from off-camera.

Thursday ratings for the morning infotainment programs aren’t yet available.

By  |  12:46 AM ET, 04/06/2012

 
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