Finally confirming the worst kept secret in TV news, NBC News today announced Billy Bush would join its morning program Today in the 9 AM hour (See memo to staff from Today’s SVP Noah Oppenheim, below).  Bush will begin his new stint during NBC’s coverage of the Rio Summer Games in August.

Making a liar of moi, NBC did NOT jam into NBCUniversal’s Upfront presentation on the first day of Upfront Week its announcement about Billy Bush and NBC News’ Today show. Instead, the news division announced the next morning the long anticipated move of the NBCU Access Hollywood star, which was widely expected to target the 9 AM timeslot where Today competes against Disney-ABC’s Live with Kelly and Whoever Replaces Michael in many parts of the country.

Not coincidentally, earlier this month, the news division announced Natalie Morales is moving to Los Angeles to become Today’s West Coast anchor, and to host NBCUniversal’s Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live. The move comes days after that other chronic Today show report, that Bush was leaving Access Hollywood to join the morning infotainment franchise, flared up again like a bad rash.

Given the ratings Live has gotten in the past searching for Kelly Ripa’s new co-host, that show may not have named Strahan’s replacement by the time Bush becomes a full-fledged Today regular in August.

Today‘s 9 AM hour is the four-hour franchise’s weakest slot, ratings-wise, so most movement is expected in that timeslot. The 9 AM hour regularly featured Willie Geist, Morales, Tamron Hall, and Al Roker. Geist, also is co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, contributor to NBC News programs and the NBC Sports Group, and host of nbcnews.com’s video blog Zeitgeist; recently he added yet another day to his work week, debuting as host of Today’s Sunday edition leading in to Chuck Todd’s Sunday Beltway show.

Geist’s new Sunday Today hosting gig was always going to be the beginning of changes to the NBC News morning program, now that the division appears to have stabilized the 7-9 AM mothership. And with those Rio Olympics coming up in August, Oppenheim, the Today veteran who returned one year ago as senior vp, had been expected to begin making good on media forecasts he’d been brought in to look for other opportunities to evolve the franchise/maximize ratings. Bush, of course, has contributed to NBC’s Games coverage dating back more than a decade.
Jim Ornstein of WME and Bob Lange of Kleinberg Lange repped Bush in this deal
Here is Oppenheim’s memo, ending months, and months – and months –  of speculation about Bush and Today:

Hi Everyone —

I’m excited to share official word that Billy Bush is coming to TODAY.  He’ll join the current 9a anchors as Tammy and her team continue to build a compelling and competitive hour focused on lifestyle and entertainment.

Billy has been a part of the TODAY extended family for quite some time — he brings boundless energy, a great interviewing style and a deep knowledge of pop culture.  During 15 years as host of Access Hollywood, and 6 years as co-host of Access Live, Billy has covered and interviewed literally everyone in Hollywood.  Following an early start in radio, Billy broke into TV as a freelancer on WNBC. He credits his very first segment, involving a painful chest-waxing incident (well before Steve Carell) with him getting the full-time gig.

You’ll start to see Billy on the show during the Olympics in August.  Please join Tammy and me in welcoming Billy to TODAY!

Noah