By Ronald Grover
(Reuters) - NBC is expected to name Alexandra Wallace, a senior vice president of the network's news division, as the executive in charge of "The Today Show," the latest reshuffling of the show's personnel after it slipped to second in ratings this year behind "Good Morning America."
Wallace, who would be the first woman in charge of the long-running NBC show that pioneered early morning TV in the United States, will be named along with a producer to replace Jim Bell, according to a person familiar with the decision.
Bell, who has headed the show since 2005, was blamed this year for the controversial firing of Ann Curry as anchor alongside Matt Lauer.
Curry was replaced by Savannah Guthrie in June.
"Good Morning America" or GMA, produced by Walt Disney's ABC unit, closed the gap with "Today."
"Today," the top-rated morning show for 16 consecutive years, started the current TV season number two. In late October, NBC drew 7,000 more viewers than GMA among 25 to 54 year-old viewers, the age group advertisers most want to reach, its first lead since September 10. GMA still led among overall viewers.
The first two hours of "The Today Show," from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., collected $485 million in ad revenues in 2011, up 6.6 percent from 2010, according to Kantar Media, which provides data to advertisers. GMA took in $299 million last year.
It is unclear when the changes at "The Today Show" will take effect, according to The New York Times, which first reported the shakeup.
Bell this summer produced NBC's Summer Olympics coverage and is expected to become the full-time executive producer of the network's ongoing Olympic coverage.
NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp., is also in the midst of layoffs at its entertainment unit, shedding 500 positions primarily at its cable channels. Jay Leno's late night TV show cut about two dozen of its crew members about two months ago.
(Reporting By Ronald Grover)