NEW YORK (AP) — With things looking up for the "Today" show after a dark period, Matt Lauer decided to stick around and NBC is happy to have him.
The network said Friday that Lauer had agreed to a contract extension to continue as co-host of the morning show, as he's been since 1997. The show is trying to recover the dominance it lost to rival "Good Morning America" the past few years.
Lauer's popularity took a major hit two years ago following the messy departure of co-host Ann Curry. Despite that, NBC's own research showed that losing Lauer would be much more damaging, and his bosses let him know he was still wanted. He told management last week that he wanted to stay, and an agreement was reached quickly. Lauer told his "Today" colleagues Thursday that he'd be staying, said an NBC executive who spoke on condition of anonymity because the network doesn't talk publicly about contracts.
Lauer's popularity has stabilized over the past year, with the percentage of negative impressions decreasing, according to Marketing Evaluations Inc., a Long Island company that measures the likeability of TV personalities.
"Matt really isn't the problem with the show," said Shelley Ross, who competed against Lauer as the former top producer at the ABC and CBS morning shows. "Matt still, I think, is one of the all-time anchor greats. I clearly think the 'Today' show is rattled. It's not the confident show it once was."
Some of Lauer's potential in-house successors — Willie Geist, Carson Daly and Josh Elliott — will have time now for more seasoning.