Today has been more a soap opera than a morning-news program of late, and executive producer Jim Bell today finally addressed some of the drama. The best part of his comments to the New York Times is his contention that among the many reasons for Today ending its 16-year winning streak in the ratings to rival Good Morning America is that Today is a “more serious show”. When asked if he meant that GMA is more a tabloid-style program, he said, “Yes, that’s what I’m saying”. As for the ouster of Ann Curry after only a year as co-anchor, Bell said that decision was all his — and not anchor Matt Lauer’s, as had been rumored. “Hindsight is 20/20”, Bell said. “You can sit there and think this or that, but we’re comfortable with that decision (to make her anchor) and the one we’ve made now.” Bell said there were no truth the rumors that Lauer demanded Curry’s departure before he signed a new contract. “He is the host and does not have management responsibility”, Bell told NYT. “It was not his call. That was my call.” Bell believes that as a special news correspondent, Curry is now “in the role she is naturally suited for,” and that replacing her with Savannah Guthrie was part of Today‘s the “long view” of ratings comeback.
Today’s ratings slide started in April just before Curry’s departure at the end of June. During the final week in August, GMA topped Today in total viewers and the key 25-54 demo by the widest margin in 18 years. Except for a slight bump during the London Olympics, GMA beat Today in eight of the last 10 weeks of the summer and has kept up the pace so far in the fall.