Where in the world is Matt Lauer? Behind his desk at NBC’s “Today” show for at least the next five years.
While the television world was paying attention to Meredith Vieira’s selection as Katie Couric’s successor on the “Today” show last week, Lauer quietly agreed to a contract extension to keep him on the show until 2011.
NBC confirmed the deal Tuesday, after Lauer revealed it during an interview with The New York Times. The network released no details. Lauer, 48, would not comment on the extension of a contract that was due to expire in 2008, a spokeswoman said. His salary is expected to be in a similar $13 million to $15 million range a year that Couric’s was.
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Lauer has been co-host with Couric on morning television’s most popular and profitable show since January 1997, when he replaced Bryant Gumbel.
With the personnel situation settled at “Today,” attention will soon turn toward ABC’s second-place “Good Morning America,” which would face changes if either co-host Charles Gibson or Diane Sawyer is tapped as a long-term substitute for the injured Bob Woodruff on “World News Tonight.”
“You’ve got your team in place, we have continuity and it appears we have some chemistry,” said Jim Bell, executive producer of “Today.” “I couldn’t feel any better than I do knowing Matt is going to be there. He’s now the guy. He has the seniority, he has the institutional knowledge and the contacts. He has a lot going on.”
Lauer has kept a relatively low profile, receiving much attention a couple of years ago when he showed up for work in a shockingly low haircut.
But he did make news when scolded about Scientology by Tom Cruise in an interview last year, and he recently snagged a broadcast-exclusive interview with the survivor of the West Virginia mining disaster.
“Are as many articles written about him? Is he as likely as his co-stars to grace the cover of a magazine? Probably not,” Bell said. “But is he as likely to get the big interview? Of course.”
Lauer has kept up an exhausting travel schedule the past few years as the focus of the periodic “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” features. Over the course of a week, he’s sent to mystery spots across the globe with the audience guessing his destination.
That series is taking a brief hiatus and may come back next fall, Bell said.
“We’re going to see if we can’t get him interested,” he said. “He loves it but it does take its toll.”
Vieira, 52, is expected to start as Lauer’s co-host in September.
She displayed an easy camaraderie with Lauer during a news conference to announce her hiring last week. Bell hopes that will also be seen when the two are on live television for two hours each weekday morning.
“I don’t feel any trepidation about it,” Bell said. “They already seem like they went to high school together.”