Although the New York Times confirmed an earlier report that NBC reached out to Anderson Cooper about taking over for Matt Lauer on the troubled Today show, an anonymous executive insisted, somewhat weakly, "NBC News has many exploratory talks with talent inside and outside of the network, but to read anything specific into that is presumptuous." In the face of a growing swirl of speculation, fueled in part by Joe Hagan's juicy cover story in this week's New York, a spokesperson for Today said, "We are not considering replacing Matt Lauer."
That's not what it looks like. According to the Times, "Mr. Cooper may have told NBC he was not interested. Nonetheless, the entreaty indicates that NBC executives are actively talking about a succession plan for Mr. Lauer." The longtime host's $25 million a year contract isn't up until the end of 2014, but "the calculus within NBCUniversal now is 'Can we really wait a year and a half?'" in the words of one source "with past ties to the network."
"It is unclear who at NBC made the call to Mr. Cooper," reports Brian Stelter, as well as if Lauer really called Cooper "to express his disapproval" as the original Deadline scoop claimed. But the former, pointedly anonymous NBC-er attempted to deliver a kiss of death: "Matt's now in the same situation now as Ann Curry." Next come the tears, then.
This post has been updated throughout.