NBC Chief: 'Today' Lost Its Innovative Edge

NBC changed leaders at "Today" (search) because TV's dominant morning news show had lost its innovative edge, network chief Jeff Zucker (search) said Wednesday.

Between its concert series, studio window to the street, on-air weddings and fast-paced openings, "every innovation of the last 10 years (in morning television) has come out of the `Today' show," said Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group.

But few have been forthcoming in recent years, he added.

Zucker worked at "Today" for more than a decade and was its executive producer from 1994 to 2000 before climbing the corporate ladder.

NBC last month fired "Today" executive producer Tom Touchet, replacing him with sports producer Jim Bell and appointing veteran newsman Jim Griffin as an NBC News executive overseeing the show.

Bell on Wednesday appointed Colleen Halpin, a veteran "Dateline NBC" producer who worked for the past year on Jane Pauley's failed talk show, as senior producer of "Today."

ABC's second-place "Good Morning America" (search) has averaged 610,000 fewer viewers than "Today" this season, steadily shrinking a gap that was as big as 2 million five years ago.

NBC has no problem with the on-air team of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, with Ann Curry as news anchor and Al Roker the weatherman, Zucker said. "I don't think there's an issue with the talent," he said. "It's the way you produce them."

"Good Morning America" is producing a better show than it has in the past, Zucker said.

While "Good Morning America" clearly enjoys a carryover benefit on Monday from ABC's hit "Desperate Housewives," Zucker discounted NBC's prime-time slump as a factor in the tightening race.

"Today" continues to outpace "Good Morning America" among the younger, upscale viewers that advertisers crave, he said. "The last couple of months, the numbers have been closer than I'd like," Zucker said, "but we're still in a very strong position."