Kathie Lee Gifford announced this morning that she will leave the Today show, and as is traditional for her hour of the show, the announcement was very emotional and involved extreme earnestness, sight gags, and wine. Gifford revealed the news with her co-host Hoda Kotb, saying that she will leave her post hosting the 10 a.m. hour of Today in April of next year. “I have been here almost 11 years,” Gifford said. “Thought I would stay one year, something happened along the way — fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess. And now, when it’s our 11th anniversary, I’m going to be leaving the Today show.” Gifford hinted that she has other projects in the works (will she write another musical?), but did not reveal where exactly she will head next. Gifford and Hoda then took turns tearing up and complimenting each other while pulling tissue paper from the ceiling, which is fairly typical for the show they have built together.
While there’s not been any indication (yet) that Gifford is departing on anything less than her own terms, her exit is the latest in a series of recent blows to NBC’s still-mighty Today franchise. The Peacock’s morning woes began in early 2017, when word got out the network was planning to cancel the third hour of Today — the one co-hosted by Al Roker and Tamron Hall — to make room for a new show to be hosted by ex-Fox News personality Megyn Kelly. NBC News management’s poor handling of the situation prompted Hall to leave the company, depriving Today of a rising star. Things went even further downhill once Kelly arrived: NBC kept the Today brand name on her show, but ratings were awful and she became an instant, regular magnet for controversy. Worse, her show proved to be a poor bridge between the flagship 7 to 9 a.m. Today show and the 10 a.m. hour hosted by Kotb and Gifford, pushing down ratings for the entire four-hour franchise. As if all that weren’t enough, the whole Matt Lauer thing happened. NBC finally pulled the plug on its Kelly experiment in October, and ratings for the four-hour Today block have recovered. But Hall is long gone (she’s launching her own talk show next fall), and NBC now faces the prospect of rebuilding fully half of its lucrative morning franchise. Perhaps the network will start by replacing the executive who’s overseen all this morning show carnage.