Meredith Vieira Meredith Vieira

Meredith Vieira is expected to leave NBC's Today when her current contract expires later this year, according to a source familiar with her plans.

Vieira has been in discussions with NBC News executives for several months about extending her deal, which is up in September. But the co-anchor is said to be weary of the demanding early morning hours and is ready to move on. Vieira has often said that the health of her husband, who has battled multiple sclerosis and cancer, will be a factor in considering her future on the program.

The network is not giving up hope that a deal can be reached. "NBC is doing everything they can to convince her to stay," says one person with knowledge of the discussions. One network insider noted that Vieira is beloved by the Today staff and crew, as well as NBC News management. Officially, the network said in a statement: "The Today show anchors are currently under contract and firmly in place."

NBC News insiders say if Vieira does leave, Today news anchor Ann Curry is the leading candidate to join Matt Lauer as co-anchor of the program.

Vieira, 57, left ABC's The View to join Today in 2006, replacing Katie Couric when she ended her 16-year run on Today to become anchor of the CBS Evening News (Couric is expected to soon exit that broadcast for her own show in daytime syndication). Vieira seamlessly fulfilled the tall order of succeeding Couric, as Today remained a dominant No. 1 in the morning ratings after the transition.

When Vieira's first three-year contract with NBC expired last year, she would only agree to a new one-year deal, worth about $11 million, as she did not want a long-term commitment to the morning grind.

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