'Today's' Natalie Morales is moving to L.A. to join 'Access Hollywood'

Natalie Morales is leaving her role as news anchor on NBC's "Today."

The morning program's staff was told late Wednesday that Morales is relocating to Los Angeles, where she will be West Coast anchor and a host on the syndicated programs "Access Hollywood" and "Access Hollywood Live."

The move is expected to be the first of a series of changes to the morning program's talent lineup. "Access" host Billy Bush will be named a host of the program's 9 a.m. hour. The rest of the 9 a.m. lineup, currently Al Roker, Tamron Hall and Willie Geist, is still being determined, according to insiders at the show.

Morales has been with "Today" since 2006 and has been part of the 9 a.m. hour since 2011. In her new role, she will continue to appear on NBC's "Dateline." She will head to Los Angeles sometime this summer.

Noah Oppenheim, senior vice president and executive in charge for "Today," said the program's increased coverage of West Coast stories led him to believe that "having a permanent anchor presence in L.A. would be of enormous value."

Oppenheim noted that NBCUniversal's syndication unit, which distributes "Access Hollywood," wanted Morales as part of the program after learning that a Los Angeles assignment was being considered for her.
 
"They immediately jumped at the opportunity to have her host 'Access Hollywood' and 'Access Hollywood Live,'" Oppenheim said in his note.

An NBC News spokesperson said there are no plans to replace Morales on "Today" in the 7 to 9 a.m hours alongside Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Roker. The news anchor role has been diminished on the program as Lauer and Guthrie handle most of the stories in the first hour.

There has been talk of an expanded role for Hoda Kotb, who co-hosts the 10 a.m. hour with Kathie Lee Gifford.

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