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Sunday, April 14, 2013

NBC, Anderson Cooper Held Brief Talks

NBC had a brief conversation with Anderson Cooper's representatives about the CNN anchor's interest in moving to the broadcast network, including potentially a role on NBC's "Today" show in the future, say people familiar with the situation.

Any "Today" role would have been after anchor Matt Lauer leaves the show, one of the people said. Mr. Lauer has a contract that runs until 2015.

GLAAD/Getty Images NBC spoke briefly with CNN's Anderson Cooper—shown with Madonna earlier this month in New York—about a switch to the broadcast network.

The talks didn't get very far. A person familiar with Mr. Cooper's thinking said that he wasn't interested in the job. NBC said Wednesday that it wasn't looking to replace Mr. Lauer. "As we've said before, Matt is the best in the business," NBC News executive Alexandra Wallace said. "We want him in the Today show anchor chair for many years to come."

A CNN spokeswoman didn't return calls.

Still, the fact that a possible role on the Today show was discussed, however briefly, suggests the network is contemplating a future without Mr. Lauer, who has long been considered a major draw for the morning show.

"Today" has been under pressure since losing its 16-year lead in the morning television ratings race last year to ABC's "Good Morning America." Critics blamed a lack of chemistry between Mr. Lauer and his co-anchor Ann Curry, who last summer was moved off the show. She was succeeded by Savannah Guthrie.

For the season to date, total viewers at "Today" averaged 4.64 million, while "Good Morning America" drew an average of 5.24 million viewers, according to Nielsen data provided by NBC. "Today" trails its rival in the 25-54 age group, which it considers the core audience, by a smaller amount.

There are signs advertisers have taken notice. For the two hour block before 9 a.m., when "Today" competes with GMA, the NBC show's ad revenue rose 2.6% to $497.3 million last year from 2011, while GMA's ad revenue rose 6.8% to $318.5 million, according to Kantar Media, a unit of WPP PLC. "Today" posted stronger growth in the post 9-a.m. segment.

The latest uproar will likely unnerve advertisers further, one media buyer said. "When ratings and talent begin to waver at a franchise that has had such a long, consistent history of success and support from advertisers...if you're not nervous then you're not paying attention," said Kris Magel, director of national broadcast at Initiative, an ad buying firm owned by Interpublic Group of Cos.

The revelations about NBC's possible interest in Mr. Cooper, reported earlier by Deadline.com, come at a tumultuous time for NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp. Last week news broke that NBC was working on a transition in its late night schedule. The network has committed to comic Jimmy Fallon, who will succeed Jay Leno, host of the Tonight Show, when Mr. Leno steps down. Mr. Leno's contract is up next year.

Meanwhile NBC continues to struggle in prime time. After a strong start, its audience slumped midway through the season after Sunday Night Football ended and two other popular shows, "The Voice" and "Revolution," went on a break. For the week ending March 24, NBC was in third place among major networks, ahead of News Corp .'s Fox in total viewers, according to Nielsen. "The Voice" returned on Monday night, however, and preliminary ratings suggest the show could help lift NBC through the end of the season. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.

—Suzanne Vranica contributed to this article.

Write to Christopher S. Stewart at christopher.stewart@wsj.com and William Launder at william.launder@dowjones.com

A version of this article appeared March 28, 2013, on page B3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: NBC, Cooper Held Talks.

View the original article here


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