“[It] lights a little bit of fire under our butts, there’s no question about it,” said Lauer, the co-host and veteran interviewer who was himself interviewed on “Piers Morgan Tonight” Wednesday night on CNN.
The interviewer was Donny Deutsch, the New York ad man who appears regularly on “Today” and was subbing for Morgan on CNN.
Deutsch had just asked Lauer how “GMA’s” recent surges in the ratings, when the ABC morning show twice beat “Today” in the weekly ratings for the first time in 17 years, are affecting Lauer and the rest of the people who work on the “Today” show.
“The competition, and I don’t mean [“GMA”] in particular, I mean the general competition — the fact that the environment is more competitive — has our full attention,” Lauer said. “It has my full attention.”
And as the show’s principal star, Lauer said he feels responsible. “I take responsibility for it,” he told Deutsch. “When people start to write articles about what might be wrong with the ‘Today’ show — you know, where you should point the finger — point it at me because I have been there the longest. And it’s my responsibility. I truly feel that way, and that’s why I stick around, because I think there’s more I can do. I still learn something every single day and so, you know, I want the responsibility of trying to make it better and trying to get us into a better place.
Lauer also explained why he ultimately decided to stay on the “Today” show following a period of seemingly protracted contract negotiations earlier this year. “I did not stay at the ‘Today’ show because of money,” Lauer said. “I think there are other ways to make money. I stayed there because I really do love the show, and despite the fact the alarm clock goes off at 4:10 and it’s brutal, I still do like getting out of bed and, you know, I think that I have fed off the company trough at NBC for a long time, and I had been the benefactor of great success there. Times are harder there right now. I think it’s been well-publicized. The show is not where I want it to be right now. The ratings are not where I want them to be.”
You can read a full transcript of the Lauer interview on CNN.com here.
Interesting thing about the Piers Morgan show — when you take yesterday’s stories (such as ours, here) about substitute host Regis Philbin interviewing David Letterman Tuesday night on the show, you get the feeling that the show makes more news when Piers is away than when he’s actually on his own show.