Ann Curry's era as co-anchor of NBC's Today will be brief, but the network is making every effort to keep her in the family.
NBC News executives and Curry's representatives are working on a new deal for a new high-profile role that will play to her strengths as an international correspondent. Getting her to accept that role, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, is vital to making her transition out of Today a smooth one.
"They want to make Ann OK with this," says the insider. "They can't back her into a corner."
Curry has been a loyal soldier at Today since she joined the program as a newsreader in 1997 and a beloved figure to the throngs of fans who show up outside of the morning program's studio in Rockefeller Plaza. While every research study by NBC News said she was the right choice to replace Meredith Vieira as Matt Lauer's co-anchor, the ratings haven't gone her way. The decline at Today since she took over the co-anchor role in June 2011 led to the program's first weekly loss to ABC's Good Morning America in 16 years. While Curry may not have been a good fit in the co-anchor chair — critics noted a lack of chemistry with Lauer and occasional discomfort with in-studio interviews — there is a strong desire within NBC to make sure that her exit is handled with dignity to avoid any fan backlash.
Savannah Guthrie, a regular fill-in for Curry and a member of the team that handles the show's third hour, is considered the leading candidate to take over as Lauer's partner. But sources say no deal is yet in place.
Curry, who had been without an agent since her last representative Al Geller died, has hired Washington lawyer Robert Barnett to handle her deal, The New York Times reported. Barnett is described by one TV news insider as a "master of the exit strategy."
In the new economic reality of TV news, Curry's options may be somewhat limited. "There was a time when ABC would have hired her just to screw NBC," a network news veteran says. "But they don't have the kind of money to do that now."
Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!