Why NBC Is Paying Hoda Kotb $18 Million Less Per Year Than Matt Lauer
When Matt Lauer was fired from Today, viewers patiently awaited the announcement about who his replacement would be, and it turned out to be Hoda Kotb.
However, not long after this announcement was made, it was reported that she’ll be paid a lot less than Lauer. This sparked another discussion in the larger and ongoing conversation about the entertainment industry’s gender pay gap. So what’s the reason for Kotb making so much less than Lauer? Here’s what you need to know, including the surprising way Kotb herself is responding to all this.
Kotb is reportedly making $7 million per year compared to Lauer’s $25 million
It was Page Six that reported that Kotb would be making $7 million per year taking over for Matt Lauer. That’s a pretty good amount of money, and it’s higher than a lot of other TV hosts are making. But it’s significantly below that of Lauer, who was reportedly making $25 million a year while he was with Today (although other reports suggest it was closer to $20 million per year).
Either way, NBC replacing an alleged sexual predator with a woman, but paying her far less to do the same exact job is, clearly, not a good look. While not divulging specific numbers, Kotb did recently confirm to People that she’s “not making Matt Lauer money. Not even close.”
Kotb has been with Today for less time than Lauer
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lauer’s high salary “stemmed from his star presence and decades of service for the highly lucrative morning show.”
Indeed, Lauer had been with Today for 20 years when he was fired in 2017. Kotb, on the other hand, has been with Today for 10 years; she began co-anchoring the fourth hour in 2008.
NBC has not responded to reports of Kotb’s salary, but this is likely the defense they’d mount. Lauer, they’d argue, was simply being paid more because he worked for the network for a longer period of time.
Lauer renegotiated his salary every few years, and NBC considered him to be integral
There’s also the fact that Lauer renegotiated his salary many times over the course of his 20 years with Today. Most recently, it was reported in November 2016 that Lauer had signed a new contract with NBC that lasted until 2018. He had been re-signing with the network every two years, and he was apparently an effective negotiator. After all, he once reportedly made it known during contract negotiations that he wanted Ann Curry gone, with this resulting in her firing.
Lauer also had a lot of leverage, as NBC considered him to be essential to the Today brand. And they weren’t unwise to think so. According to The Los Angeles Times, internal NBC surveys consistently showed that Lauer was one of the main reasons viewers watched Today instead of competing shows.
TV hosts usually don’t make the same as their predecessors when taking over
It’s worth keeping in mind that it’s not uncommon for a TV host to take over for a more popular host, only to make significantly less than their predecessor did — even when the new host is a major name too.
As Variety observes, this was the case when Stephen Colbert took over for David Letterman on The Late Show. Letterman was reportedly making around $20 million per year when he retired, whereas Colbert was reportedly given a salary of just $4.6 million per year when he was hired for the same job.
This kind of situation is often a chance for networks to save money, and Hollywood Reporter contributor Andrew Tyndall speculates that NBC was looking to use Lauer’s exit as an opportunity to “downsize the role.”
But Kotb has overseen a ratings boost on Today
Still, some feel that Kotb’s salary should reflect how successful her replacement of Lauer has been. Despite those surveys suggesting that Lauer’s presence was key to the success of Today, when Kotb took over as a temporary replacement after the scandal, the ratings actually went up.
In fact, according to The New York Times, following Lauer’s departure and Kotb stepping in, Today beat Good Morning America in the ratings for three straight weeks for the first time since 2016. NBC had expected a brief ratings spike followed by a decline, but that didn’t happen. Viewers stuck around even without Lauer. Maybe he wasn’t quite as important as NBC thought, then.
So Kotb’s fans feel that her salary should be closer to that of Lauer’s, considering that she is clearly popular among viewers and was able to successfully fill the void that Lauer left.
Kotb is also doing a lot more work than Lauer
One other key reason Kotb’s reported salary raised eyebrows is that she was not just going to be doing the same amount of work as Lauer was. She was actually be doing more than him.
After all, Kotb is hosting Today’s first two hours in addition to continuing to host the fourth hour — for now, at least. So this means that Kotb will be paid $18 million less than Lauer, despite working on an entire extra show.
Once again, this is a bad look for NBC, which is now paying a successful woman significantly less than they were paying a man to do less work.
She’s making much less than Megyn Kelly, but the same as Savannah Guthrie
Lauer isn’t the only anchor who Kotb will be making a lot less than. Her salary is also significantly below Megyn Kelly’s.
According to Page Six, NBC is paying Megyn Kelly $20 million per year for her role hosting the third hour of Today, meaning despite the fact that she’s new to the network, Kelly is almost making as much as Lauer was. This reflects the fact that NBC considered Kelly to be a massive draw. There’s also the fact that Fox News pays its anchors very well, and NBC needed to match that.
Page Six’s report, though, does say that Savannah Guthrie’s salary is $7 million, the same as Kotb is being paid. Kelly’s salary was seen as an outlier. In general, due to the massive decline in TV news ratings over the past decade or so, networks being willing to pay anyone Matt Lauer money is becoming rarer and rarer.
Kotb reportedly isn’t complaining about her salary
For what it’s worth, Kotb herself is reportedly fine with her salary at Today. In Page Six’s report, they quote an insider as saying that Kotb isn’t complaining about the money because she got her dream job.
Kotb also told People that the money isn’t that important to her. “I think the whole money thing for me, I’ve always been sort of — I know it sounds ridiculous that I’m going to say this, but I really have done jobs I liked for the job I liked because I never wanted to be happy every other Friday on pay day,” she said. “Like, I didn’t want that to be the happy day. I wanted to feel good throughout.”
Still, assuming Today‘s great ratings continue, Kotb can renegotiate her salary with NBC in a few years. At that point, she’ll have an even stronger case that she deserves a Lauer-level salary.
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