In the weeks after Ann Curry's disastrous on screen goodbye from the Today Show in 2012, and subsequent fallout from the decision to fire the popular anchor, NBC began to conduct internal focus groups to figure out why the show was continuing to slip in the ratings, and RadarOnline.com has learned exclusively the peacock network ignored the main feedback for years — Matt Lauer was a liability to the show.
It immediately became clear after three or four focus group sessions that the female viewers, which are the majority of the audience of morning news network shows, were blaming Lauer for the decision to let Curry go, a source told Radar.
"Executives at NBC were absolutely stunned that the audience had turned on Lauer, and so quickly. He was the poster boy for the network and was paid the most of any other talent at NBC. He had just inked a very lucrative contract, paying him over $25 million, and wasn't required to work on Fridays."
The audience saw this as yet another reason to hate the popular host, reveals the source, noting Curry "was given a paltry "three minutes max to say goodbye to the viewers."
The summer of 2012, just months after she had been fired, the Today show lost more than a fifth of their viewers. Good Morning America was now beating Today for weeks at a time.
NBC executives were said to "always believed that the viewers would eventually forget about Lauer's role in Curry being fired, and Today would recover the viewers."
The focus groups continued to be held into 2013, 2014 and 2015, each with the same determination — Lauer was a liability to the show.
The informant reveals to Radar exclusively Lauer was becoming incensed by the focus groups as he would obsessively watch tapes of GMA, trying to figure out why viewers were tuning out the Today show. "He never accepted any responsibility for the fallout of his role in Curry's termination. It just never dawned on him that he was the problem."
"It comes as little surprise to anyone that Today has once again been beating GMA on a very regular basis in the key demographic since Matt's termination from the show," spills the snitch.
"The thing that shouldn't be lost, is that NBC chose to ignore those focus groups that all said Matt was the reason why Today was losing to GMA," says the insider.
"With the Olympics, NBC is only hoping to widen the lead over GMA...but again, the question needs to be asked, why did NBC ignore those all important focus groups? Especially since executive producer at the time, Jim Bell, decided that it was Ann Curry's fault there was no chemistry with Matt Lauer after she took over for Meredith Vieira in 2011,"a source revealed.
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