When Savannah Guthrie returned to Today early from her maternity leave, she said it was because she just couldn't wait to get back to work.
But we had our own theories, and now, rumors are starting to get around about another possible reason for Guthrie's early return. NBC's ratings were plummeting, and in a panic, network execs ordered her back to work to give ratings a boost.
"The show was in a free fall. She initially announced that she’d be returning on March 3, but they were in a panic... and called her back early," an insider told Page Six.
In Guthrie's absence, Lester Holt and Bryant Gumbel filled in alongside her co-host, Matt Lauer, but the source said that wasn't doing anything to boost the network.
"Their bro-show didn’t work," the insider said. "They needed Savannah to bail them out, so they rushed her from maternity leave. NBC claimed it was because of the influx of news, but the reality is that the show was down double-digits and they needed her."
But even after Guthrie's surprise early return to work, ABC retained its lead in the ratings. In a press release, the network announced, "‘Good Morning America’ delivers largest total viewer lead over ‘Today’ in 14 months."
Still, an NBC source fired back by pointing out that ABC had the Oscars, which usually give the network a big boost.
"GMA has been down double-digits in the key demo [ages 25 to 54] for months while Today has been posting gains," the source explained. "Last week, ABC had the Oscars broadcast, which historically gives GMA a huge boost."
A Today rep added that the show has "been No. 1 in the key demo for 20 straight months, its best winning streak in more than four years, and its advantages over GMA have reached five-year highs."