NBC News to bring back Noah Oppenheim to head 'Today'

NBC News to bring back Noah Oppenheim to head 'Today'
From left, Tamron Hall, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Al Roker appear on the "Today" show in New York on Nov. 3. (Bryan Bedder / Associated Press)

NBC News is turning to a name from the past to help lead "Today" into the future.

Noah Oppenheim, a senior producer of the morning program from 2005-08 when it was No. 1 in the ratings, is returning as the top executive in charge of the entire editorial operation.

"Noah will oversee all aspects of the Today brand and is responsible for all platforms of Today, including broadcast and digital," NBC News President Deborah Turness said Friday in her announcement of Oppenheim's appointment. "His mission will be to guide editorial content, drive growth and integration and identify strategic opportunities.

Oppenheim will fill the role that was briefly occupied by Jamie Horowitz, the onetime ESPN programming whiz who was fired in November shortly after he took the NBC job.

In recent years, Oppenheim has worked as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. He had been a program development executive for the production company Reveille and is the co-author of a bestselling book series, "The Intellectual Devotional." At NBC News, he also served as executive producer for the MSNBC programs "Hardball" with Chris Matthews and "Scarborough Country."

During his tenure at "Today," Oppenheim oversaw the 7 a.m. hour, which is when the bulk of the program's hard-news reporting runs. But with his background in the entertainment business, he is expected to have a strong point of view on the program's softer content as well.

"Noah brings an insider's and outsider's perspective to the role," Turness noted. "And his breadth of experience spans both hard news and entertainment."

His new position gives him control over the four hours of "Today" on television and its digital platforms. He will also be tasked with finding ways to expand the "Today" brand name.

Oppenheim was a popular figure at "Today" during his previous stint. NBC News executives said they believe that he will have the trust of staffers and anchors needed to enact a new strategy to challenge ABC’s "Good Morning America," the current ratings leader.

"Today" has a reputation of being a closed society that is resistant to change.

Horowitz apparently found that out during his short tenure at the program. He came in as a hard-charging outsider whose proposals for a major overhaul of talent quickly diminished his support among staff - including co-anchor Matt Lauer - and ultimately the NBC News bosses who hired him.

Don Nash remains executive producer of "Today" and will continue to handle the day-to-day management of the program.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio