NBC is seeking to reboot the "Today" show by adding Carson Daly, unveiling a new studio set that resembles a "hipster New York City apartment" and a sharper focus gleaned from studies of what viewers and lapsed viewers say they want.
NBC is seeking to reboot the “Today” show by adding Carson Daly, unveiling a new studio set that resembles a “hipster New York City apartment” and a sharper focus gleaned from studies of what viewers and lapsed viewers say they want.
The new look will debut next Monday, and NBC executives offered a studio tour Thursday. But the real work is in the content, and new NBC News President Deborah Turness – just five weeks into her job – has made a “Today” reboot a top priority.
Daly will be stationed in the studio’s new “Orange Room,” where he will provide continual updates on how the show’s stories are trending online and what kind of feedback viewers are offering through social media.
The set’s new anchor desk will be on a revolving platform that lets “Today” personalities look out over fans peering in through the street-side window. Al Roker has a new 82-inch touch-screen weather display to play with, there’s a new orange couch and all manner of high-def screens and energy-friendly lights.
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“We think it’s an incredibly warm and inviting place,” Turness said. “We feel like it’s somebody’s home – our home.”
The well-publicized problems at “Today” are part of the reason Turness was brought from England for the job. The once-dominant morning show had its 852-week winning streak – that’s 17 years – broken by ABC’s “Good Morning America” last year. “GMA” now has a streak of its own, winning last week for the 55th week in a row. The “Today” daily audience of 4.57 million last week was 743,000 behind ABC, the Nielsen company said.
Despite the change in fortunes, NBC says its studies have shown that only 10 percent of “Today” viewers who have abandoned the show over the past few years have turned to “Good Morning America” instead.
“Today” is devoting itself to a mission statement that involves substance, making connections with viewers and offering people who watch something uplifting, Turness said. She pointed to stories in recent weeks involving Bradley Manning’s sex change, interrogation footage of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro and Matt Lauer’s interviews with Paula Deen and Alex Rodriguez’s lawyer.
“We are a news show,” Turness said. “I’ll say it again. We are a news show.”
At the same time, she said the show’s promise is that “even in the darkness, we will seek the light.” She mentioned how Lauer was on the scene when the spire of the One World Trade Center tower was put into place.
Besides the studio, some of the other changes are cosmetic, and reference back to the show’s history. With a sunrise in its logo, NBC stations across the country are putting cameras on the roof to catch video of the sun rising and “Today” is asking viewers to send in their own sunrise pictures to show on the air.
Lauer said that the mission statement and tightening of the show’s focus is appreciated. “We were occupying too wide a space for a while,” he said.
The show is using relevance as a standard for the stories it puts on the air, “and that’s much different from `buzzy,'” he said.
Lauer, who has teamed with co-host Savannah Guthrie for more than a year now, would not say how long he wanted to stay with the show. He said the changes, which Turness has overseen with executive producer Don Nash, has made things more exciting.
“The new direction of the show is something that has me more invigorated than I have been in a long time,” he said.
Daly’s addition adds uncertainty to the future of his “Last Call” late night show. NBC’s entertainment division said it has no plans to cancel the show and is figuring out a transition plan.
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