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Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric and anchor Matt Lauer on Friday, January 6, 2017© Getty Images

Today Show's most famous former anchors and the way they left: from Katie Couric to Matt Lauer

The NBC News morning show is currently anchored by Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb

Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
July 3, 2024
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For over seven decades, after first hitting the airwaves in January 1952, NBC's Today Show has become one of the premier names in morning news around the nation.

The show's anchors have become celebrities in their own right. The morning news is currently fronted by Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, supported by Craig Melvin, Al Roker, Carson Daly, Sheinelle Jones, Dylan Dreyer, Jenna Bush Hager, and many more.

However, over the years, several renowned names in broadcast journalism have come and gone from the iconic Studio 1A at Rockefeller Plaza, with some having commandeered the show for over a decade.

Take a look at the storied history of former Today Show anchors, how long they held the coveted anchor spot for, and their eventual transition away from the show…


Barbara Walters© NBC NewsWire

Barbara Walters

The late Barbara Walters was a touchstone of interview culture and broadcast TV, joining NBC News in 1961, being promoted to one of their "Today Girls," and finally began hosting the main show in 1974, beside Jim Hartz.

RELATED: Barbara Walters remembered — tributes pour in following her death at 93

She left in 1976 to join competitor ABC thanks to a lucrative $5 million contract, and continued to build on her illustrious career, which kicked off when she became the first woman to co-host a US morning news program with her stint on Today. She passed away in 2022 at the age of 93.


Jane Pauley told Today audience she was leaving the show to start a prime-time news program for NBC and she regretted reports of fighting with colleagues Bryant Gumbel and Deborah Norville.© Getty Images

Jane Pauley

Barbara was succeeded by Jane Pauley, now 73, who hosted the show from 1976 to 1989, first with Tom Brokaw and then with Bryant Gumbel. However, in her final year, the arrival of Deborah Norville reportedly stemmed from NBC wanting to ease her out in favor of the younger anchor. 

Jane asked to be released from her contract early to spend time with her three kids, but NBC reportedly denied. In 1989, she announced her departure, receiving a wave of support (and a huge ratings dip) in response. She remained with NBC News till 2003, and since 2016, she has been the host of CBS Sunday Morning.


Deborah Norville© NBC NewsWire

Deborah Norville

Deborah, now 65, was announced as a Today news anchor in 1989 before being named host in 1990. Unfortunately, negative audience reception to the transition proved to be her undoing, with many displeased at how suddenly Jane's tenure came to an end, and Deborah was caught in the crossfire.

RECENT: Today Show anchors reveal what former longtime host is up to now — and it couldn't be more different

In 1991, she went on maternity leave and did not return to the show. She has since become a best-selling author and is most notably the anchor of the CBS newsmagazine program Inside Edition, a position she has held since 1995.


TODAY -- Pictured: Bryant Gumbel appears on NBC News' "Today" show© NBC NewsWire

Bryant Gumbel

Hired as an anchor for NBC Sports, in 1982, Bryant Gumbel, now 75, would be promoted to co-anchor of Today with Jane, holding that position until 1997, with his 15 years marking the third-longest tenure in the position. He was a fan favorite and won several Emmys for his work.

He left the network to pursue other projects, working most extensively with CBS. However, he is now most known for his HBO investigative series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, which he hosted from 1995 to 2023. The show has received immense acclaim and won him a Peabody Award in 2012.


Pictured: Katie Couric appears on the "Today" show on Monday, March 7, 2016 in New York© Getty Images

Katie Couric

Deborah was succeeded in 1991 by Katie Couric, now 67, one of the leading women in broadcast news. She commanded the position of co-anchor from 1991-2006, becoming one of the world's most well-known news anchors (winning a Peabody as well), and logging the second-longest tenure.

MORE: Katie Couric reveals surprising truth about her former Today co-stars

She left in 2006 to work with CBS and become the new Managing Editor of CBS Evening News. Katie also most notably contributed to 60 Minutes before switching to ABC News and Yahoo! News. She has since returned to Today several times and also launched her own media company, Katie Couric Media.


Meredith Viera in NBC's The Today Show on Wednesday morning, September 5, 2007© Getty Images

Meredith Vieira

After Katie left in 2006, Meredith Vieira, now 70, was announced to take over her position, leaving her role as one of the moderators on The View, a position she held since 1997 (which she co-hosted alongside Barbara Walters).

She held the role until 2011 while simultaneously also hosting the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Meredith remained with NBC for years after her departure, however, and is now best known for hosting the game show 25 Words or Less since 2019. She was replaced for a year by Ann Curry before Savannah was promoted to the role in 2012.


TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer on Wednesday, November 8, 2017© Getty Images

Matt Lauer

Matt Lauer first made a name for himself as a Today news anchor in 1994, before being promoted to the main anchor in 1997, a position he held until 2017. His tenure remains the longest in the show's history.

READ: Inside Matt Lauer's life now after Today Show exit, scandal

In 2017, the now 66-year-old was swiftly terminated from the NBC News show after several allegations of sexual misconduct were made public. He was immediately replaced by Hoda, who was officially named co-anchor in early 2018. Matt has since receded from the spotlight, quietly getting divorced as well from Annette Roque in 2019.

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