No. 12

Senior producer, NBC News


This month wraps not just another year of tremendous “Today” bookings for senior producer Melissa Lonner, it marks the end of her eight-year run at NBC News after she elected not to renew her contract. A trailblazer who revolutionized live music on “Today” and, by extension, the realm of morning show entertainment, Lonner launched the now-vaunted Summer Concert Series. This year, that series brought to Rockefeller Plaza the likes of Luke Bryan, Cher and One Direction (which drew some 18,000 in its third appearance for “Today”). “I wanted to ruffle some feathers, to make it exciting and fresh and fun. I wanted people to talk about it,” Lonner says of her goals at “Today.” Known for her fairness and subsequent ability to instill loyalty among rising stars, Lonner’s work ethic has remained unchanged despite the program’s rough ratings run of late. “I feel the same amount of pressure now that I did when we were on top. I always feel the need to deliver.” She has delivered big time, helming the opening ceremonies for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, which drew a record 40.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. “I wouldn’t trade a single day—the sleepless nights, the hives, my child throwing my BlackBerry into a swimming pool while we were on vacation one year—for being able to have this amazing experience,” Lonner says. What’s next? She’s taking some time to regroup before revealing her next venture. —Cathy Applefeld Olson