NBC News is getting a new top executive. Noah Oppenheim, the executive in charge of the Today show, has been named the new president of NBC News, chairman Andrew Lack said Tuesday in a memo to staff. He will replace Deborah Turness, who will move to a role overseeing NBC News International. Oppenheim will continue to have oversight of Today, which last year surpassed ABC's Good Morning America in the critical 25-54 demographic.
The moves come as NBC takes a 25 percent stake in the European network Euronews for roughly $30 million, according to sources. NBC News and the company have been in exclusive talks about an investment and partnership. Euronews' supervisory board had asked CEO Michael Peters to lead the negotiations. Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris owns 53 percent of Euronews and will remain the controlling shareholder. The network will be renamed Euronews NBC.
Turness, who is British, came to NBC News more than three years ago from U.K.-based ITV. At the time, she inherited a news division in something of a crisis, as GMA had snapped Today's 16-plus-year winning streak. Praising her leadership, Lack noted that all four of the network's regular broadcasts (Today, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press and Dateline) finished 2016 at No. 1 in both of the key demos - for the first time since 2011. Turness was recruited by Pat Fili-Krushell, who has since left the company. So when Lack was named chairman of NBC News and MSNBC nearly two years ago - and in the midst of the Brian Williams scandal - there was speculation about her future at NBC News.
Turness will move back to London.
Oppenheim joined NBC News in June 2015 and has steadied Today after a rocky period; the news division recently locked down new deals with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie and also is developing a new program for Megyn Kelly, expected to air in the 9 a.m. hour of Today beginning this summer. Oppenheim left a screenwriting career in Los Angeles to return to New York and NBC News (where he worked many years ago). The success of the Natalie Portman vehicle Jackie, for which Oppenheim wrote the screenplay, fueled speculation that he would not remain at NBC News long-term.
With the two news operations being seen as complementary, the deal expands NBC News' ability to cover Europe, where Brexit and other topics have been big stories. It will also boost Euronews' U.S. coverage at a time when many Europeans remain in a state of anxiety about how President Donald Trump will affect America's role among its Western allies in Europe.
Observers have said that Euronews could also benefit from having a partner that produces different formats and has increased its digital presence. Plus, its new U.S. partner could help Euronews further with its new mission statement of representing "all views."
Sawiris bought his 53 percent stake in Euronews for a reported price tag of 35 million euros, or around $40 million at the time. He will remain the majority shareholder of Euronews under the deal, and NBCUniversal doesn't have an option to increase its stake, according to sources. "Naguib wants to remain, for the time being, the controlling shareholder," said one source.
Created in 1993 with the goal of becoming the "European CNN," Euronews was originally owned by a consortium of state-owned European networks, which later became minority shareholders. Based in Lyon, France, it airs in 13 languages and covers 155 countries. The network says it is the most-watched news channel in Europe with more than 500 journalists.
Layoffs are not planned, and the capital injection is actually seen as allowing for new job creation, sources said. "NBC and Euronews want to use this cash to develop Euronews further," said one source.
The deal is expected to get approval from Euronews shareholders later this month and close in late March or early April.
Lack's full memo:
For as long as I can remember, at NBC News we've wanted to establish a global reach for our news organization that matches our impact and reputation in the United States. We now have a fantastic opportunity to do just that, and to begin to write an exciting new chapter in the remarkable history of NBC News.
We plan to marry the power of the NBC News brand and the talent of our people with a formidable news asset in Europe in order to create an international offering that will strengthen our news organization and change the landscape of international news. This new venture will be called Euronews NBC.
In short: We believe we've found a unique international partner at a pivotal time in global news.
Nearly 25 years ago, Euronews was founded to cover world news from a European perspective. Today no other news organization in Europe brings together the diversity of views, across the continent, day in and day out.
By joining forces with Euronews and their nearly 500 journalists, our audience on the broadcast network, on MSNBC and our digital platforms will benefit from a greatly expanded news gathering capability. And we will reach 277 million new households in thirteen languages across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Upon closing this deal, NBC News Group will provide editorial resources, strategic guidance - and will have an ownership stake - to help build on the success Euronews has seen to date. We will invest in European journalism, strengthening the depth and pace of its reporting - which is rooted in each of the 164 countries where Euronews currently broadcasts. On digital we will co-brand and collaborate to enhance their existing digital products and editorial coverage - and ours.
Needless to say, this is going to be an enormous challenge and it will take a great deal of work. It will require an outstanding business and editorial leader who, among other attributes, is proven in both the U.S. and Europe.
I'm pleased and proud to say that Deborah Turness will be named the first president of NBC News International, reporting to me. Deborah is perfectly positioned to make sure we seize this opportunity - one that is unprecedented for any U.S. broadcast entity.
Deborah has been integral to this process - she's been my partner for several months in assessing the opportunity and aligning our vision with Euronews.
Deborah joined NBC News three and a half years ago. In no small measure due to her leadership, all four of our broadcasts finished 2016 as number one in both of the key demos - for the first time since 2011.
She's driven the news division on big scoops and exclusives and considerably upped our game on covering international news. Her commitment to "journalism with a capital J" can be seen in the many prestigious awards NBC News has won in the last few years. She also led a massive overhaul of our systems and processes, just one of the many ways she has made us all better and brighter.
At moments like this - when a leadership position opens up - one of the signs of a healthy and thriving newsroom is the ability to find a worthy successor within your own walls. That's one of the many reasons I'm delighted to tell you that Noah Oppenheim will become President of NBC News, reporting to me.
I know you share my enthusiasm in congratulating Noah. He began his career here with Hardball and then TODAY. Since returning home to NBC News two years ago for his second tour of duty, Noah has done a fantastic job leading the TODAY franchise. He has honed the broadcast, and audiences have rewarded us for it. TODAY is back in first place and more powerful than ever.
For those of you in the TODAY family - rest assured - Noah will continue to lead TODAY, and will of course take on oversight of all NBC News operations, including Nightly News, Meet the Press, Dateline and our award-winning investigative-unit. He will partner with Phil Griffin and MSNBC, as Deborah has done so successfully, to continue the momentum we've built in combining the strength of our two networks for the betterment of both. And Noah will work closely with Nick Ascheim as we chart our digital future.
I couldn't be happier with our team, our recent successes, and the opportunities ahead. Please join me in congratulating Deborah and Noah, and wishing them both all the best in their new roles.
Warmly and gratefully,