NBC's sudden dismissal of longtime "Today" show host Matt Lauer was rightfully perceived as something of a sacrifice for the network, which risked lower ratings to avoid a public relations crisis. Though such a sacrifice could hardly be deemed noble, especially since it seems that Lauer's reputation was no secret over at 30 Rock, the network must have expected that dropping Lauer would precipitate a drop in the ratings. Why else would they have paid him $20 million a year?
But in the wake of Lauer's departure, ratings have continued to rise for "Today."
"For the second consecutive week," Variety reports, "the first two hours of the NBC morning program surged ahead of the show’s main rival, 'Good Morning America' – not only capturing its usual lead among people between 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers – but among overall audiences as well."
"It's the first time the venerable a.m. show has done so since late 2015, when it beat 'GMA' among total viewers for the weeks of December 12, 2016 and December 19, 2016," according to Variety, which was first to publish many of the allegations of serial sexual misconduct against Lauer.
All three networks' morning shows are reportedly down in the ratings compared to last year.
Hoda Kotb has assumed Lauer's spot since he was fired on Nov. 29. Given that "Today" is regaining ground on GMA with Kotb in the co-anchor chair, the program's unexpected post-Lauer ratings rise bodes well for her. On the day of his exit, one "veteran news producer" told the Los Angeles Times he predicted "Today's" ratings could drop by ten to fifteen percent amid Lauer's firing.
Maybe the disgraced host wasn't worth $20 million a year after all.