NBC News is still looking for a way to keep Brian Williams, but maybe not in the Nightly News anchor chair, CNN Money reported today. NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, who brought Williams to NBC News when he ran the division the first time, is said to be exploring an option in which Williams winds up back at MSNBC but in a role yet to be determined.
“Andy’s contorting to figure out a way to keep Brian,” said one source cited by CNN.
Negotiations have stretched for months since Williams was forced to take a leave from NBC Nightly News after witnesses challenged his public recollection of events during his coverage of the Iraq war. When NBC began hearing challenges to claims Williams had made about his role covering other breaking news events, the network suspended its Nightly News anchor/managing editor for six months to more fully investigate. That suspension would end in August, but media expected something to happen much sooner, based on speculation, that turned out to be erroneous, the network would have to make an announcement about Williams future at its May upfront presentation to media buyers and/or same-week affiliates confab.
Two months before Williams’ conflagrations led to his suspension, he’d signed a new five-year contract with NBC News, worth about $10 million a year. Whether Williams winds up with an agreement to keep him at NBC News, or a settlement in which he departs, NBC’s expected to insist a deal include a non-disparagement clause barring him from publicly criticizing NBC.
This latest re-iteration of options being weighed comes less than 48 hours after NBC News emailed to reporters a memo to staff from NBC News president Deborah Turness, ticking off the news division’s recent spate of good ratings news, including Nightly News with Lester Holt filling in for Williams, as he has done since Williams left the anchor chair in February:
I want to share some extraordinary results for NBC News. Last week, TODAY was #1 in the demo for the second week in a row. It means TODAY has won the demo for three out of the last five weeks. There hasn’t been a two-week demo win outside of the Olympics since January 2013. Last week saw great results for Nightly News too. The broadcast was #1 across the board in ALL demos and households, and remains the top broadcast in total viewers and the demo season-to-date. And Meet the Press had its strongest May sweep in four years in both total viewers and the demo, and continues to slash the gap with the competition.
These numbers are powered by the extraordinary lengths you go to each and every day to drive our journalism, to tell great stories, and to create memorable events. In recent weeks, we have been at the heart of the biggest stories, with a string of exclusives, anchoring on the ground (or in the air in Nightly’s case!), always with the deep humanity that is unique to storytelling at NBC News.
As we celebrate your wins, we look forward to the start of June–with Matt’s exclusive interview with Tracy Morgan on the TODAY Show on Monday.
We should all be so proud of the outstanding work we’ve been producing. And the challenge now is to continue to work together to build on this incredible momentum.
My thanks to each and every one of you,