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Originally published Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 10:05 PM

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Curry ousted as co-host of NBC's 'Today' show

Ann Curry's departure from her co-host role on the "Today" show Thursday represents NBC's most visible response to the show's worst stretch in the ratings in nearly two decades. Curry will remain on the show as a correspondent.

The New York Times

Tonight in Prime Time

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Saying "this is not as I ever expected to leave this couch," Ann Curry told viewers Thursday morning that she was leaving the "Today" show co-host seat that she was given just over a year ago.

In an emotional segment on the show, Curry choked up when she said Thursday was her "last morning as a regular co-host of 'Today.' " She paused, composed herself, pointed to the camera and said, "I will still be a part of the 'Today' show family, but I'm going to have a new title and a new role."

She will become the "anchor at large" for "Today," a roving correspondent role that was offered to her more than a month ago by NBC executives in an effort to move her off the top-rated morning television show.

Curry, 55, resisted the effort at first — and she made that clear Thursday. "I don't even know if I can sleep in anymore," she said, having noted earlier that she had been on "Today" for 15 years, 14 of them as the news anchor.

Through tears, she also said: "For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball over the finish line. But, man, I did try."

Curry was joined by the other hosts of "Today" — Al Roker, Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales — who sat quietly while she thanked viewers for their support. They then took turns praising her international reporting and her high-profile interviews over the years.

None of the hosts explicitly said why Curry was leaving, but many viewers had already heard why, in news reports and on gossip websites.

Her departure ended a week's worth of awkward television. She came to work after word got out that NBC was looking to oust her, with neither she nor the network commenting on the stories until Thursday.

Her exit also represents NBC's most visible response to the popular morning show's worst stretch in the ratings in nearly two decades. "Today" hadn't lost a single week since 1996, but this spring it was beaten four times by ABC's resurgent "Good Morning America."

Some NBC executives had believed for months that Curry did not fit in well with Lauer, the co-host of "Today" for 15 years. Lauer renewed his contract on "Today" in April.

Lauer said during the segment, "Can we just say, it's not goodbye, not by a longshot?" Curry looked down and shook her head.

The segment was shown at 8:50 a.m., toward the end of the two-hour broadcast by Lauer and Curry. There was no advance notice given to viewers about it, a stark contrast to the farewell for Meredith Vieira, who preceded Curry as co-host and who was given a grand goodbye party that was televised for the better part of two hours last June.

On social-networking websites, thousands of Curry's fans assailed NBC for having Curry depart the co-host seat. The vast majority of messages on the "Today" show Facebook page Thursday morning were supportive of Curry and negative toward the show, an outcome the network expected.

It's hard to overstate the importance of the "Today" show to NBC, particularly with so many other things at the network going wrong. Last year, "Today" earned an estimated $484 million in revenue, more than "Good Morning America" ($298 million) and CBS' morning show ($156 million) combined, according to Kantar Media. Losing the top spot in the ratings means a lot more than bragging rights.

Earlier Thursday, Curry commented publicly on her exit in an interview with USA Today.

Although co-hosting "Today" was her dream job, she told the newspaper: "In my secret heart of hearts, I see this as a thrilling opportunity. To have a ticket to every big story in the world — no small matter."

She also said she wasn't given enough time to fix "kinks" that occurred in her year as co-host. She told the newspaper that she isn't to blame for the ratings slip.

In a statement after the goodbye segment was broadcast, the executive producer of "Today," Jim Bell, said: "I know of only one journalist who in just a matter of years has traveled to Sudan six times, broken exclusive world news with top world leaders, and broadcast live from both the South Pole and Mount Kilimanjaro. Ann has quite literally reached amazing heights in her career, and with this new role, she will continue her intrepid climb ... ."

NBC made no mention Thursday of Curry's replacement. But Savannah Guthrie, currently the 9 a.m. co-host of the show, is in negotiations to take over the 7 to 9 a.m. slot.

Her promotion may not be announced until early July, allowing some time to pass between Curry's exit and Guthrie's entrance.

Material from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News is included in this report.

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