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"Today" show shake-up, exec producer Jim Bell moves to sports

November 13, 2012|By Meg James
(NBC / Today )

Taking steps to staunch troubling ratings declines at its lucrative morning news program "Today,"  NBCUniversal has reassigned Jim Bell, executive producer of the show for the last seven years.

On Tuesday, Bell was named full-time executive producer of NBC's coverage of upcoming Olympic Games. The veteran sports broadcaster earlier this year had worked as executive producer of NBC's successful London Olympics coverage.

The move had been expected.

NBCUniversal is expected this week to name a new executive producer of "Today," which until this year had been No. 1 in the morning ratings for 16 years.

NBC declined to comment on Bell's successor at "Today." Although Alexandra Wallace, a senior vice president of NBC News, will be part of the new "Today" management team, she is not expected to replace Bell, according to a person familiar with the search process.

Bell became the target of criticism after the network unceremoniously dumped Ann Curry as "Today" co-host in June amid declining ratings. NBC tapped Savannah Guthrie to replace Curry, but the show has since fallen further behind its invigorated rival ABC's "Good Morning America," which has recently ranked consistently as No. 1 in the important daytime block. 

Viewership for "Good Morning America" is up 3% so far this season, according to Nielsen ratings.  "Today" is down about 15%. Last week, "GMA" averaged 5.5 million viewers a telecast. "Today" averaged 5.3 million. 

Under majority owner Comcast Corp., NBCUniversal has taken steps to shore up its news division, which until recently had been somewhat balkanized. In July, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke tapped Pat Fili-Krushel, a former Time Warner and ABC executive, to run the company's news organizations as chairwoman of the NBCUniversal News Group. 

Now, NBC News, CNBC and MSNBC presidents all report to Fili-Krushel.

In his new role within NBC Sports, Bell will have "editorial and creative control over NBC’s Games," NBCUniversal said in a statement.

“There is no doubt that Jim is the right person to be our Olympic production leader into the future,” Mark Lazarus, NBC Sports Chairman, said in a statement. “Jim has worked with the best in the Olympic television world, and we’re excited to have him join us as the full-time executive producer.”

Prior to moving over to run "Today," Bell had spent 16 years with NBC Sports & Olympics. He has worked on every Olympic Games NBC has broadcast for the last two decades.


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