In the proverbial dance of chicken and egg, NBC news and sports senior producer Melissa Lonner is a master choreographer. The longtime music producer of NBC’s “Today,” Lonner not only excels in spotting talent early but also finessing the power of morning TV to catapult careers into the mainstream. In March, Brit boy band One Direction drew an unprecedented 15,000-plus people to the show’s plaza before the group’s debut album even hit in the United States.
| My Mentor: “The best learning experience I have ever had has been gained by the smart and creative people I find myself working with in every job I’ve had. I take a little bit from everyone — the good and the bad — and from that, I have been able to sharpen my instincts.”
In September, PSY went from Internet sensation to iTunes topper immediately after his “Today” slot. Competition is a motivator; “Today” is in a heated ratings battle with “Good Morning America.” But “Today” ruled the summer, as Lonner helmed the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London as well as morning show coverage of the games, which broadcast “to a greatly expanded audience,” she says. “We were lucky to have access to so many amazing British talents for the opening ceremony, starting with director Danny Boyle. We were thrilled to be able to bring his uniquely memorable showcase of England to the world.” More recently, Lonner and “Today” helped lure Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and others for the “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” telethon hosted by “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer. Veteran acts “can take years and years to lasso . . . I had to pinch myself to believe they were actually going to be here.”