Ann Curry said a teary goodbye to her Today show colleagues and viewers Thursday as NBC prepared to announce her replacement, Savannah Guthrie, as early as today.
Curry, 55, is exiting amid a ratings decline at the still-top-rated morning show and a perceived lack of chemistry with co-host Matt Lauer. Her abrupt departure comes little more than a year after Curry -- the show's former news reader -- took over for Meredith Vieira.
"This is not as I expected, to ever leave this couch after 15 years, but I am also grateful," she said, choking up as she announced the news at 8:50 a.m., without the congratulatory tributes that accompanied Vieira's sendoff.
"For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball to the finish line, but man, I did try."
As she had told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview Wednesday, Curry said on air that she has won "some fancy new titles, which essentially means I'm going to get tickets to every big story we want to cover" on various NBC News shows, including Today.
Lauer told her, "You have the biggest heart in the business," and, with weatherman Al Roker and news anchor Natalie Morales, recounted some of her big stories. She hugged Roker, and Morales held her hand.
"It's not goodbye, not by a long shot," Lauer said, adding that "you'll be with us at the Olympics" next month. But no one explained the reason for Curry's departure or hinted at her successor.
An NBC executive with knowledge of its plans but not authorized to speak on the record confirmed that Guthrie, 40, has won the job. A lawyer, NBC's chief legal analyst and co-host of Today's third hour, she had been considered the heir apparent for several weeks as speculation about Curry's future intensified.
"She's got the right stuff," says Andrew Tyndall, who analyzes network news for The Tyndall Report. "She's clearly smart and very good live on air. She has the touch you need on a morning show, the ability to switch between being serious and being lighthearted, in a way that Ann Curry didn't."
In her USA TODAY interview, Curry expressed dismay that she hadn't been given sufficient time to work out the "kinks" she said plagued every new co-host on the show, one of TV's most profitable. She said it was her "dream job, and I would be lying if I said it was easy to leave."
But NBC's margin of victory over ABC's Good Morning America was cut in half this season, and GMA won four weeks outright in late spring, ending Today's unprecedented 16-year streak. Today retains an unbroken string of victories among viewers 25 to 54, the target audience for news advertisers.
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