Jenna Bush Hager will take over Kathie Lee Gifford’s seat at the table of the fourth hour of the “Today” show in April, NBC News announced Tuesday.
Hager has been with “Today” for 10 years as a correspondent and contributor. A frequent fill-in co-host, she is a “Today” viewer favorite, and her profile increased recently during network coverage of the death of her grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush.
Hager, 37, will join co-host Hoda Kotb on what has traditionally been the most freewheeling hour of the “Today” franchise airing at 10 a.m. Kotb will continue to co-host the flagship “Today” hours of 7 to 9 a.m. with Savannah Guthrie.
In a memo to staff, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said the program will use Gifford’s departure as an opportunity to make other changes to the 10 a.m. hour.
Gifford announced in December that she is leaving “Today” after 11 years to spend more time on the West Coast, where she has a number of entertainment projects in the works.
Gifford said in interviews that she had wanted to leave the program at the end of 2017 but was persuaded to stay while “Today” was still absorbing the loss of veteran anchor Matt Lauer, who was fired after admitting to sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
“Today” has undergone several talent changes over the last 18 months — the network also ended Megyn Kelly’s stint in the 9 a.m. hour after a segment about whether blackface was appropriate on Halloween. But it has maintained its status as the most-watched network morning program among viewers ages 25 to 54, the audience advertisers seek when they buy time on news programming.
“Today” has been running neck and neck with ABC’s “Good Morning America” in overall viewers, last week averaging 4.18 million to “GMA’s” 4.21 million, according to Nielsen data.