Al Roker

It’s been well chronicled that, ever since that whole Ann Curry debacle over a year and an half ago, the fortunes and ratings for NBC’s The Today Show have slipped badly. Despite a fancy new set and bringing more people on the show, it still lags in second place, way behind ABC’s Good Morning America after a 16 year long streak, being the No.1 morning network show.

And it’s no secret that Matt Lauer is seen as a major cause for the decline, with his huge unpopularity among viewers. However, the one major factor that keeps the show afloat is Al Roker, who is, without question, the most popular and well liked member of the Today show cast among viewers, and the show’s staff as well.

So it’s no doubt a cause of concern, when, earlier this week, both the New York Daily News and the New York Post hinted that there’s some discord at Today, and that Roker might leave.

The emphasis of course is the word “might.” 

The show is hurting enough already, and you would think that the network and the show’s producers wouldn’t be dumb enough to let Roker go. But then again, they handled that whole Curry thing pretty well didn't they?

Rumblings began when former GMA weatherman Sam Champion started making appearances, even this week, on the show, along with Roker. Champion, who recently left GMA for a new deal to host a three hour show on The Weather Channel, which is owned by NBC/Universal, was immediately seen as a possible Roker replacement, since Roker’s contact is expiring this year.

And, though unsaid, Roker, who is currently getting $8 million a year, compared to Lauer’s $25 million a year through 2015, and is known to be best buds with Lauer, has to be thinking: WTF? This guy gets three times what I’m making and everyone hates him. Meanwhile everybody loves me and I’m carrying the whole damn show on my back; and if I leave, the whole thing will fall apart. I want more.

And the network knows that Roker will be asking for a big increase. In fact, even more so, since it’s been reported several times that, next year will be Lauer’s last year on Today, so there will be some money to spare. However, Roker reportedly is having “his agents exploring other opportunities.

That statement can be seen in two ways. Either Roker’s agents are actually exploring potential offers in case NBC doesn’t give him wants he wants; or it’s a “trial balloon” planted by Roker’s people in the press, to scare NBC into giving him what he wants.

Then again, if Champion were to replace Roker, he would be a lot cheaper to get, since NBC is constantly looking to cut costs.

However, according to Dan Nash the executive producer of Today, all this talk about Roker leaving is nonsense: “As much as we are happy to have Sam in the family at the Weather Channel, the ‘Today’ show is not in the market for a weather anchor. Al is beloved by NBC and our viewers. They are longtime friends and supportive of each other.

So everything is cool and everyone’s happy. But, then again, anything can happen. We’ll have to wait and see.