David Gregory – is actually very well suited to host Meet the Press, in place of Tim Russert. He has a mild temperament and he is very well versed in Washington politics. Thumbs up if he is chosen.
NBC News has settled on David Gregory as its choice to be the successor to Tim Russert in the role of moderator of its longtime Sunday discussion program “Meet the Press.” But the network has not finalized the deal, NBC executives said Tuesday.
Mr. Gregory is in negotiations with NBC to secure the position, however, and one reason he may get the job is his value to NBC’s most dominant property, the “Today” show. He has long been regarded as the network’s choice to one day succeed Matt Lauer as a “Today” host.
The news of Mr. Gregory’s appointment has been reported on several Web sites this week, including Politico.com and HuffingtonPost.com, though NBC has steadfastly denied that any deal is in place with this White House correspondent, who has most recently served as anchor of a 6 p.m. talk show on MSNBC, NBC’s cable news channel.
NBC executives said on Tuesday that the leaks of Mr. Gregory’s selection could be a potential impediment to concluding the deal.
But on Sunday NBC executives made calls to people who had been considered as potential hosts or panelists on “Meet the Press,” letting them know a decision had been made. The list of contenders had at one time been long, including two other NBC correspondents, Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell; the MSNBC host Chris Matthews; the PBS host Gwen Ifill; the CNN correspondent John King; and even the “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric, who had been a longtime host of “Today.”
Mr. Gregory did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Gregory, as an insider, was long considered the front-runner for the “Meet the Press” position. But NBC delayed naming him as it conducted its search, and as Tom Brokaw, its former longtime anchor, filled in as the temporary moderator for Mr. Russert, who died of a heart attack in June at 58.
The show easily maintained its top-rated position under Mr. Brokaw, and NBC pushed back the time on naming a permanent host, first from a date in September, then to just after Election Day. NBC has boasted in the past of the care it puts into transitions for its on-camera hosts and anchors. The network famously installed a five-year transition period on its “Tonight” show from Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien. It also smoothly named Brian Williams long in advance as the successor to Mr. Brokaw as the anchor of the network’s “Nightly News” broadcast.
The transition from Mr. Russert to the next permanent moderator has been less smooth, partly, NBC executives said, because Mr. Russert’s death was so sudden, and partly because his reputation was so big in both the television and political worlds.
Looking to put some distance between Mr. Russert and his ultimate successor, some NBC executives wanted Mr. Brokaw to stay on even longer, perhaps as long as two more years, putting off a decision even further.
Mr. Brokaw, however, informed NBC within the past several weeks that he wanted to step down soon, an NBC executive briefed on the process said on Tuesday.
The delays in the decision left some of the other candidates unsure of NBC’s intentions. “It was a little baffling,” said one of the candidates, who requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize a relationship with the network. Though Mr. Gregory was widely respected inside NBC News for his political coverage, he had another advantage over the other candidates: his role as a frequent substitute host for Mr. Lauer on NBC’s most important news program, “Today.”
The candidate who was speaking anonymously said, “My sense was they really just had to find a way to placate David down the road for Matt’s job.” The “Today” show is the most profitable show on television, and as such is vitally important to Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC’s parent, NBC Universal. It is also personally important to him because he led the show to its long period of ratings dominance as its executive producer in the 1990s.
“I think it really came down to the ‘Today’ show issue,” the other candidate said. “The show makes so much money for NBC.”
Other people who were involved in the process made the same point: Mr. Gregory had unusual leverage because he was thought of as a potential successor to Mr. Lauer — and a potential rival to “Today” if he left NBC and joined its main competitor, “Good Morning America” on ABC.
Two people who were apprised of the negotiations said that NBC seemed concerned that Mr. Gregory might have a standing offer to jump to “Good Morning America” if he did not win the “Meet the Press” competition. But an ABC executive said on Tuesday that that was untrue; no such offer or suggestion of an offer had been made to Mr. Gregory.
And while it had been assumed by many of the other competitors for the “Meet the Press” post that Mr. Gregory’s contract was ending soon, making a jump to another network a real threat, that is not the case. Mr. Gregory is under contract at NBC until January 2010.