NBC’s chief confident on ‘Today,’ Brian Williams vs. Couric

NBC's chief confident on 'Today,' Brian Williams vs. Couric 1Just two weeks after CBS Evening News-bound Katie Couric said a tearful goodbye to NBC’s Today, her old boss now sings the praises of her successor, Meredith Vieira, and predicts that Brian Williams, anchor of top-rated NBC Nightly News, has no worries going toe-to-toe with Couric at night.

“I am confident that Brian will continue to do a first-rate show and maintain his position of leadership” in the evening-news race, Jeff Zucker, chairman of NBC-Universal TV, said Friday.

Zucker, whose star at NBC rose along with Couric’s when he produced her on Today during her glory years in the 1990s, declined to handicap Couric’s chances on the evening-news front. (She begins anchoring the third-place Evening News Sept. 5.)

But Zucker says Good Morning America anchor Charles Gibson, now anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight, was a “very good choice and will do a very competitive broadcast. He’s a first-rate broadcaster.”

Meanwhile, Zucker says, advertiser reaction to Vieira, who left ABC’s The View to join Matt Lauer on Today in September, has been very strong: NBC has sold about $350 million in advance, or “upfront,” ads, up $25 million from last year, and Zucker predicts Today will have 60% of the morning show ad market.

“The reception of Meredith has been phenomenal, and we happen to have gone into the (upfront) marketplace at a time when the strength of the show has also been phenomenal,” Zucker says.