NEW YORK — Television icon Kathie Lee Gifford will bid farewell to NBC’s “Today” show next April.
“As we all know, Kathie Lee’s plate has been overflowing lately with film, music and book projects, and after giving us eleven extraordinary years, she’s decided to focus her attention full-time on those other creative endeavors,” NBC News President Noah Oppenheim wrote in an internal memo Tuesday morning.
Oppenheim called her a “legend” for her “enduring and endearing talents in morning television.”
From 1985 until 2000, Gifford co-hosted “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.” In 2008, she became Hoda Kotb’s co-host on the 10 a.m. hour of “Today.”
In the television world, the hour is known for funny conversations, celebrity guests and free-flowing wine. Gifford and Kotb are beloved by millions of viewers.
And in the business world, it is known as a prime place to advertise. The morning-long “Today” show is a cash cow for NBC, generating hundreds of millions of dollars of ad revenue. So changes to the show’s cast are always a big deal.
In the coming months NBC will have to retool both the 9 and 10 a.m. hours. That’s because 9 a.m. host Megyn Kelly was taken off the air in October after multiple controversies, including her offensive comments about blackface Halloween costumes.
NBC and Kelly are still negotiating the terms of her exit.
Gifford is leaving under very different circumstances. “We look forward to celebrating her in the months to come,” Oppenheim wrote on Tuesday.
Oppenheim said the network would share its plans for the future of the 10 a.m. hour before Gifford’s final show in April. The hour “will, of course, continue to include Hoda,” he said.
When she’s not a host, Gifford is a songwriter, a singer, a producer, an author, and an actress, among other roles. She has a movie in the works called “Then Came You.”
“I have something to share with everybody,” Gifford said at the start of Tuesday’s show. “It’s bittersweet, as these things always are. But, I’ve been here almost 11 years. Thought I would stay one year. Something happened along the way: I fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess.” That’s one of her loving nicknames for Kotb.
“And now, when it’s our 11th anniversary, I’m going to be leaving the ‘Today’ show,” Gifford said. “It’s an exciting time for me, and I’m thrilled about all the projects that are coming up. But it’s also hard, because the reason I stayed longer than a year is because I love everybody here so much.”
In a statement, she added, “I leave ‘Today’ with a grateful heart but I’m truly excited for this new creative season in my life. Many thanks to all the wonderful people who made the years fly by.”
“Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie tweeted out, “A true pro, a true legend, a true friend. We love you, @KathieLGifford.”