Ann Curry gets the last laugh.
The dumping of Curry in favor of Savannah Guthrie on the “Today” show has not been a success. So NBC announced late Tuesday that the guy in charge of the show, Jim Bell, has been named executive producer of NBCUniversal’s Olympics coverage on a full-time basis.
And in tomorrow’s news, NBC is expected to announce that Bell is being replaced on “Today” — by an actual woman, which would be a “Today” show first.
The odds-on favorite within the industry is Alexandra Wallace, a senior VP of NBC News. The New York Times reported late Monday that she is expected to take the job.
In Tuesday’s announcement, NBC noted that Bell rejoins NBC Sports Group full time after seven years of leading “Today,” the program that dominated the morning infotainment show race for 16 years — until ABC’s “Good Morning America” blasted it out of the top spot in early April.
It had been a given among The Reporters Who Cover Television that Bell was toast, given the “Today” show’s continued ratings problems, Curry’s botched exit and the general uncomfortable-making dynamic among its on-air talent during its first two hours.
Names of possible Bell replacements have been floating about for weeks.
It’s the probable selection of a woman that’s making news. Wallace has experience in the day part, having produced the weekend edition of “Today” before moving over to night side, when she exec-produced “NBC Nightly News.” She then took over the news division’s prime-time head-scratcher, “Rock Center With Brian Williams.”
A couple of months ago, Bell said that it was his decision to show Curry the door — and not the decision of her longtime co-anchor Matt Lauer, who took most of the blame in the court of public opinion. At that time, Bell indicated that Curry’s year in the co-anchor chair was sufficient time to determine she was not a good fit.
But Curry’s teary on-air exit from the show did not sit well with viewers, and the pairing of Lauer with Guthrie has done nothing to wipe that bad image from memory.
Curry got the hook in June because the show was already in ratings trouble, and ABC’s “Good Morning America” was taking over as the new morning infotainment front-runner.
But her departure didn’t fix the problem. “GMA” continued to rank No. 1 in the ratings derby during 11 of 13 weeks between late June and the start of the official TV season in September, with “Today” only beating “GMA” during the two weeks in the summer when it broadcast from the London Games.
Six weeks into the current TV season, “Today” continues to trail “GMA” among all viewers, and has lost five of the past six weeks among 25- to 54-year-old viewers who are the currency of news programming.
In the most recent week for which ratings are available, “Today” edged “GMA” in that age bracket by 8,000 viewers.