NBC announced Thursday that Carson Daly will be joining the 'Today' as its social media host starting next week. He will be holding down the fort in the show's "Orange Room," also unveiled Thursday, which will facilitate the show's interaction with fans over social media.
The announcement immediately stirred speculation as to whether he was being considered as a possible replacement for current "Today" anchor Matt Lauer. Up until Daly's hiring, Willie Geist, who hosts the 9 a.m. hour, appeared to be the obvious choice. Who would make the better host? A break down:
Daly: Daly is firmly rooted in the entertainment world. His breakout role was host of MTV music countdown show "TRL" where he chummed it up with the stars of pop's heyday. He now hosts NBC's mega-hit singing competition "The Voice," and his late night show "Last Call" also has a movie and music star focus. He knows how to work celebs, but can he also deliver that harder news?
Geist: Before he gets to the "Today" set every morning, Geist is holding court with the political classes, co-hosting MSNBC's "Morning Joe," a Washington D.C. obsession. Known as "The Oracle of MSNBC," Geist clearly gets the ins and out of politics, but can he appeal to those outside the Beltway?
Bottom Line: While Geist clearly has a more substantive resume (and "substance" is what NBC says it's going for), everyone who works in news knows that it's the sugary stuff that gets the eye balls. So, counter-intuitively, we're giving this one to Daly.
Daly 1; Geist 0
Daly: Daly has had to charm all sorts of diva celebrities on "TRL" and "Last Call," as well as media-green wannabe stars on "The Voice." Of course he hasn't always been successful, just watch this supremely awkward attempt at conversation he had with Celine Dion. More concerning is that his hosting roles have always been a solo venture. Can he carry a playful back-and-forth with his future co-anchor (presumably the wonderfully chipper Savannah Guthrie, who replaced the icy Ann Curry)? After all, it was Lauer's and Curry's lack of chemistry that reportedly sank their partnership, leading to the television trainwreck that did long-term harm to the "Today" ratings.
Geist: As host of the 9 a.m. hour, Geist has proven he can juggle the many hosts on the show's ever growing couch. He also has to play buffer little brother to Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough's bickering TV spouses act. And political-types can make for even more prickly guests than celebrities.
Bottom Line: Not only does Geist play well with others, he does so usually at a very early hour, when guests and co-hosts are at their crankiest.
Daly 1; Geist 1
Daly: Once upon a time mobs of screaming, hormone-addled teenage girls would pack Times Square holding posters that said "Marry Me Carson," hoping to catch a glimpse of the MTV idol. People Magazine even named Daly "Sexiest Broadcaster." But that was in 1998, when the average age of his fan base was 14. The TRL generation has since grown up, but Daly hasn't aged a day, and not in a good way. Is it just us or does Daly look really weird in a suit?
Geist: Geist joined Lauer on the most recent People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive list. Even sexier, he was self-deprecating about it, calling it "a clerical error." He also won the attention of men's style bible Esquire for his sartorial choices. "Today" knows what up, posting a Buzzfeed-y "7 photos that prove Willie Geist HAS been sexy at every age." (Their title is accurate, the photos are proof).
Bottom line: Sure, the open button downs and choker necklaces worked for Daly back when pop stars could also pull off full denim suits. But times have changed and so has the demographic. Geist's nerd-cute look and crooked smile reins supreme.
Daly 1: Geist 2
While Geist has won this early assessment, there's still plenty of time for Daly to make his case – Matt Lauer's contract will last at least through 2014. And we haven't even considered the dark horse candidate: Ryan Seacrest.