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NBC Moves to Shake Up ‘Today’ Leadership

NBC is completing a plan to change the leadership at the "Today" show, the longtime first-place morning show that slid to second place this year during the controversial removal of Ann Curry.

AP

Alexandra Wallace, a senior vice president of NBC News, will be the new executive in charge of all four hours of the highly profitable "Today," according to people at the network who described the plan on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced. She and a producer yet to be selected will succeed Jim Bell, who has been in charge of the show since 2005. Mr. Bell led the campaign for Ms. Curry's removal from the show earlier this year and received much of the blame for the damage done by the transition.

After being the No. 1 show for 16 consecutive years, "Today" lost to "Good Morning America" on ABC for a few weeks in April and May.

Ms. Curry — who had been on the job only a year — was replaced by Savannah Guthrie in June. Since then "Today" has lost to "G.M.A." consistently (save for two weeks during the Summer Olympics) and the reputation of Ms. Guthrie's co-host Matt Lauer has taken a beating, as many of Ms. Curry's fans have blamed him for her dismissal.

Because of all the turbulence, the producer change is seen as inevitable in the halls of NBC News. But it is unclear when the changes at the top will take effect. Some people with knowledge of the plan, who said they could be fired if they were identified, cautioned that it was still subject to change.

A spokeswoman for NBC News declined to comment. NBC is part of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.

According to NBC, Ms. Wallace will be the first woman ever put in charge of the "Today" show — a milestone for the media industry because "Today" invented the morning television format 60 years ago. "G.M.A." has had a female executive producer on two occasions, and "Today" briefly had a female executive for morning programming, but for the most part men have run the network morning shows, which rise or fall mainly on their ability to get women to watch. Women make up about 65 percent of the "Today" audience and about 70 percent of the "G.M.A." audience.

The changes are being overseen by Patricia Fili-Krushel, chairwoman of the newly created NBCUniversal News Group, which includes NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, along with Steve Capus, news division chief.

Stephen B. Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, put Ms. Fili-Krushel in charge of the group in July, and since then she's been exploring what to do with "Today," the most valuable piece of NBC News real estate, according to people who have spoken with her.

Ms. Fili-Krushel declined an interview request on Monday. She is expected to pick a day-to-day producer of "Today" under Ms. Wallace and may direct other changes to the show as well.

A shake-up like this one has been rumored about for months — making "Today" an awkward place to work in the meantime. Mr. Bell, who took over "Today" in 2005 and kept it No. 1 until this year, has continued to run the show this fall while fending off rumors about his future there. He had a second job this year producing NBC Sports' Summer Olympics coverage. Mr. Bell will become the full-time executive producer of NBCUniversal's Olympics coverage, reporting to the chairman of NBC Sports Group, Mark Lazarus, a spokesman said.

The search for his replacement has been an open secret, even at NBC's competitors.

"Résumés are flying," said a senior executive at a competing network. Among those interviewed for the day-to-day job were Izzy Povich, a producer at MSNBC, and Amy Chiaro, a former "Today" show producer who now helps run "The Dr. Oz Show" in syndication. Ms. Povich declined to comment. Ms. Chiaro said in an e-mail that she had "no plans of leaving" "Dr. Oz."

Ms. Wallace did not respond to a request for comment. She came to NBC in 2005 from CBS, where she was a senior producer of the morning show for that network.

At NBC she produced "Weekend Today" before moving to the evenings, first as an executive overseeing "NBC Nightly News," then as its executive producer. Most recently she was the top deputy to Mr. Capus. In September he asked her to take over "Rock Center with Brian Williams," the prime-time newsmagazine that was introduced last year and has struggled to build an audience. She could remain the producer of "Rock Center" while overseeing "Today."

The new producers will be taking over a morning show that's not accustomed to losing. But that's where "Today" finds itself now, having suffered what one executive called a "slow fade" in the ratings that predated Ms. Curry and worsened while she was co-hosting with Mr. Lauer. Her tearful goodbye seemed to tip the scales, sending "Today" deep into second place.

Lately, though, there have been positive signs for "Today": after losing for 10 consecutive weeks in the category that matters most to advertisers, viewers ages 25 to 54, the show beat "G.M.A." by a few thousand viewers in the last week of October. "Today" still lost among total viewers, with 5.27 million, compared with 5.49 million for "G.M.A." The ratings results were incomplete because of show pre-emptions and power failures across the Northeast caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Ms. Curry has not appeared on "Today" for more than a month. She is in charge of a new reporting unit that most recently contributed a story about Sandy's destruction on Staten Island to "Rock Center." The executive in charge of Ms. Curry's unit is Ms. Wallace.

— Written by Brian Stelter for The New York Times

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