Hoda Kotb will fill a Matt Lauer-sized hole in The Today Show, but she likely won't be given Lauer-sized compensation, at least according to The Hollywood Reporter. THR reports that she will make "far less" than Lauer. Though the facts are still uncertain — NBC has yet to comment on Kotb's salary as co-anchor — the optics certainly indicate that women are still undervalued and underutilized, especially in broadcast news.
Independent news analyst Andrew Tyndall told THR that this decision is a "symptom" of NBC's decision to "downsize" the role of co-anchor entirely. Tyndall added that she could maybe make $5 million per year in her new role.
This number hardly compares to Lauer's salary, which, at the time of his departure, was estimated to be between $20 and $25 million. Next to his reported salary, $5 million is laughable. The optics of this gap have soured the news that a woman will be taking over for a man accused of sexual harassment, even though, given Lauer's history, the numbers make sense. Throughout his tenure at Today, Lauer was a fierce and successful negotiator — not to mention, NBC saw him as the tentpole of the weekday Today broadcast.
"Matt is the franchise, and our franchise player has decided to keep leading our team," Steve Capus, the former NBC News President, told New York in 2012 after NBC settled a series of negotiations with Lauer. At the time, CNN reporter Brian Stelter reported that Lauer would receive $25 million a year to stay at the show in addition to a signing bonus. Reports of the actual number have fluctuated over the years; in 2016, Fortune shared that Lauer's salary was a flat $20 million. At the time, the publication also reported that Lauer's contract lasted into 2018. (NBC dismissed Lauer in late November of 2017. Bye, bye, contract!)
Kotb, in comparison, has an estimated net worth of $12 million, according to a 2016 report. Her net worth is only a portion of Lauer's yearly salary. Though she has worked for NBC since 1998, she's yet to become the sort of star whose salary negotiations receive press attention. This doesn't mean Kotb isn't a vicious negotiator or that NBC has never been in danger of losing Kotb to another network. It's just that the press has never been privy to her salary dealings. This is due to a number of factors, one of which is definitely sexism — Lauer was the man at the center of Today, and NBC positioned him as the star. Kotb was a respected anchor, but she never lorded over Today the way Lauer did. Which might be why her salary in 2018 won't hold a candle to Lauer's pile of cash.
Even if the gap between Kotb and Lauer's salary is ignored, what's harder to explain is the fact that $5 million is paltry in comparison to Megyn Kelly's reported $15 million salary. Even Ann Curry, at the time of her departure, made $12 million as Lauer's co-anchor. Kotb may be new to the 7:00 a.m. slot, but she is not new to NBC. And, if NBC is "downsizing the role," as THR suggests, it's worth investigating why that is. Was Lauer's role so big because he demanded it be so? Or was he the veritable (and very well-paid) patriarch of NBC's Today Show because NBC preferred to put their money and trust behind a man?
Refinery29 has reached out to NBC and representation for Kotb for comment.
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