Todd “Matt” Lauer, 54, waited until “Katie Couric week” at his arch-rival ABC’s rising “Good Morning America” to announce that he’s staying on as the NBC News “Today Show” co-anchor after signing a long-term contract that gives this morning TV host a reported record-setting $25 million annual contract over his previous salary of $13,500,000 annually. Lauer, a college drop-out who didn’t get his BA in media arts and studies until 1997 when Ohio University awarded his remaining credits by counting his journalism experience on morning TV as “independent study,” towards his degree. is viewed by colleagues as a “frustrated type of person.” Thus, it was no surprise that Lauer waited until his former Today co-host Katie Couric challenged his position as the lead host of morning TV’s No. 1 show, to announce he’s sticking with NBC.
Lauer calls Today his family, but not Couric
What was absent from Lauer’s usual morning TV shtick last week when Katie Couric co-hosted “Good Morning America,” was any mention about Couric all week; even while Couric spent 15 years at the Today Show, with many of those years side-by-side with Lauer.
Prior to joining Couric at the Today Show Lauer served as a small town news anchor in Richmond, Virginia, before landing local talk-show hosting gigs in Boston, Philadelphia, Providence and Richmond. He joined the Today Show in 1997; and caught America’s attention when he revealed: “My dad was Jewish. My mom is not. So I was not raised anything.”
In turn, Eugene’s Register-Guard newspaper revealed in an April 7 brief on the TV page that NBC announced “this long-anticipated deal” to keep Lauer with Matt himself making the $25 million annual contract public on Friday, April 6.
Still, entertainment watchers noted the timing of the announcement occurred at the same time Lauer was keeping his mouth shut about Couric opposing him on a rival TV morning news show.
During Lauer’s April 6 announcement on Today – that the show’s co-anchor presented as a big news item – he said, “This is my family,” but refused to mention Couric as part of that family. Instead, Lauer asserted: “Truth be told, I was developing an idea for a new show, where viewers could tune in every morning and see someone they know lose a little more of his hair every single day right in front of their eyes. But then I thought, I could just stay here and do that.”
Couric boosts Good Morning America ratings
Who would imagine former perky NBC Today show host Katie Couric chumming around with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos over Matt Lauer during her return to morning TV last week. Well, the ratings show she did boost Good Morning America but Today is still No. 1.
In turn, New York Times reporter Brian Stelter said during an April 3 National Public Radio (NPR) interview that Couric “was really back in her - what felt like the right place on Monday on her first day of the show. And, of course, she's on for five days. So all those viewers of the ‘Today Show’ who have never really tuned in to ‘Good Morning America’ before, well, now they have five different chances to try out ‘Good Morning America.’ And that's why this week seems so pivotal.”
Stelter explained how the attraction of these morning TV shows is based on a normal viewer who “would say I want to wake up in the morning and make sure everything's all right in the world. And the other reason I think is that people like having a voice or a face to wake up with.”
Also, Stelter explained to NPR that: “One of the anchors on one of these shows once said to me that you're choosing who to stand in front of naked in the morning, when you're getting out of the shower or you're getting dressed. That's a very personal choice and it's different than, say, who you're going to watch while you're making dinner.”
NBC’s Today show set to remain at No. 1
Sixteen years - that is a long time to be number one. And this week, New York Times reporter Brian Stelter and media critics told NPR that “TV viewers are wondering whether NBC's Today Show can stay on top. There was a time, of course, when the name Katie Couric was synonymous with the Today Show, helping them make it the ratings winner in morning news. And this week, Katie Couric could be the one who helps break that winning streak. Couric now works for ABC, and all week, she's guest hosting rival show Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos.”
In turn, NPR featured a sound bite from Couric on her first day back to morning TV: “That's right. I was practicing all morning. Good morning America. Good morning America.”
At the same time, Stephanopoulos said: “I was so impressed. You walk in with this three-ring binder ...it's, like, seven inches thick,” while Stephanopoulos was trying to find some rapport with Couric who, at one time, was the news anchor for the CBS Evening News after spending 15 years at NBC’s Today show.
Still, the ratings from last week’s Good Morning America stint with Couric were not enough to dethrone Lauer and company; thus keeping Today at No. 1 for morning TV watchers.
In turn, Stelter explained that Couric was really back in her element on morning TV, even if it meant she shunned her old co-anchor Matt Lauer who likes to put guests in the hot seat; while not exposing his own private soap opera lifestyle.
Lauer bounces back and forth with wife
Because Lauer is a self-proclaimed ladies’ man, he’s been the subject of many rumors regarding his possible divorce from wife Annette Roque.
For instance, Lauer is said to be a somewhat “angry man” off camera, and has denied that he once had a thing for Couric; while there’s speculation that Lauer was involved with the sexy singer Alexis Houston. Either way, Lauer is not talking about his own marriage and refused to comment about Couric crossing over to the opposition on ABC’s morning TV show.
Also, Lauer’s official biography states that he was married from 1982 to 1989 to a TV producer named Nancy Alspaugh who is credited with helping him with his morning TV career. Lauer’s marriage to Alspaugh ended in divorce; while from 1989 to 1996, he dated a fellow TV newscaster named Kristen Gesswein. However, that relationship ended after the couple was “briefly engaged,” states his biography.
In 1998, Lauer married Annette Roque, a Dutch model known as “Jade.” It was during Roque’s pregnancy with their third child in 2006, that she and Lauer separated. Although Roque filed for divorce in Manhattan Supreme Court on Sept. 13, 2006, the couple subsequently reconciled, states Lauer’s official biography.
Overall, Lauer said he’s happy with his new $25 million contract with NBC’s Today Show that allows him to talk on morning TV and also do fun gigs such as hosting the Olympic Games.
Image source of a quiet and somewhat cold-looking image of Matt Lauer on the Today show set before an interview. Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Lauer