Willie Geist joins 'Today' show

DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK -- Willie Geist will no longer have to be at work way too early.

The MSNBC personality will join Al Roker and Natalie Morales as a host of the 9 a.m. hour of the "Today" show, and contribute to the program during its first two hours, NBC News said Wednesday.

Geist has been a regular on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and host of that network's 5:30 a.m. Eastern newscast, "Way Too Early." He'll turn over the early newscast to another host, but still appear on the 6 a.m. hour of "Morning Joe."

"It's the `Today' show, arguably the most iconic brand in news television," Geist said. "It's kind of an easy question to answer when you say why do you want to go there. Because I want to play for the New York Yankees."

The third hour of "Today" has started an opening segment where the hosts banter about some of the day's top stories, similar to the "hot topics" on "The View" or the chats Regis Philbin had at the beginning of his show.

"There is a sense of just loosening up the show a bit," said Geist, son of CBS News reporter Bill Geist. "I think that by having me there they hope I can bring a little more of that in terms of a sense of humor and a different point of view."

Geist, 37, spent several years behind the scenes in television for jobs at CNN and Fox Sports. He began getting on-air time as a producer for Tucker Carlson who came out to talk with the host at the end of his MSNBC show. Joe Scarborough brought Geist on when he started "Morning Joe" five years ago.

He's done some fill-in work for "Today" in the past. He joins the bench of potential replacements for Matt Lauer when the "Today" host decides he wants to sleep later in the morning.

Geist quickly batted down that idea. "He's the best that's ever been in that job and he'll be there as long as he wants to be," he said.

"Today" has had a tough stretch in the ratings recently, losing its long-held dominance to ABC's "Good Morning America."

Geist's new job begins Nov. 12.


NBC is controlled by Comcast Corp.