- - Thursday, September 27, 2012

The “Today” show’s top producer on Wednesday defended Matt Lauer against stories that have portrayed the anchor as difficult to deal with during the show’s slide in the ratings.

The longtime morning champ has slipped behind ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the ratings in recent months after more than 15 years of being the unquestioned leader in the morning. The new ratings order has solidified since Ann Curry’s tearful exit as Mr. Lauer’s co-host in June.

Matt has been the heart and soul of the show for a long, long time, and any of the stuff out that has portrayed him in an unflattering light as being difficult to work with is patently false and it’s been tough to deal with,” executive producer Jim Bell said. One tabloid report last week described Mr. Lauer as an “anchor animal” who berates the staff and inserts himself into show decisions, which Mr. Bell described as “patently false.” He also denied an online report that Mr. Lauer would be asked to take a pay cut if the show’s ratings don’t improve. “Today” also consistently has shot down stories that Mr. Lauer played a behind-the-scenes role in Savannah Guthrie’s replacement of Ms. Curry.

Asked if viewers were taking Ms. Curry’s dismissal out on “Today,”Mr. Bell said, “It’s more complex than that.”

“Any time there is a change, especially in the morning, it takes a while for people to process that change, and we’re still going through that,” Mr. Bell said.

“Today” has taken pride in seamless anchor transitions in the past, such as when Meredith Vieira replaced Katie Couric, Ms. Curry replaced Ms. Vieira and Mr. Lauer took over for Bryant Gumbel. This one hasn’t worked, at least for now.

Mr. Bell denied reports that he would leave “Today” for another job at NBC, saying “this is the best job in the world.”

Comcast, NBCUniversal get behind zeebox app

Comcast Corp. and its NBCUniversal Media LLC subsidiary are taking a stake in zeebox, the maker of a so-called “second screen” app that people can fiddle with on mobile devices while they watch TV.

The cable giant isn’t saying how much it is putting into the company, but executives said that starting next month it will start advertising how zeebox will be integrated into its shows, the Associated Press reports.

The app gives users information about people and products that appear in shows, allows users to see what their Facebook friends are watching and points users to iTunes so they can buy songs that come up during singing shows such as NBC’s “The Voice.”

The idea is that if viewers are more engaged with shows, they’ll keep coming back for more. The second screen also gives TV networks another opportunity to raise advertising revenue.

Zeebox, which launched in Britain last year, is one of many similar apps like Viggle or Yahoo’s IntoNow that take advantage of the fact that many people watch TV with their mobile phone or tablet computer in hand.

Instead of making you poke around the Internet for random information, zeebox picks up audio clues and automatically identifies and syncs up with the show. That way, information specific to the program is offered up in real time.

Seinfeld, Richards reunite for ‘Comedians Getting Coffee’

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