Matt Lauer (left) and Ryan Seacrest
Jemal Countess/WireImage; Christian Jentz/Gamma-Rapho/Getty
04/04/2012 at 08:00 AM EDT
Is Matt Lauer heading out the door?
A lot of people have been making themselves at home in the Today
show star's dressing room this week. Tuesday, it was guest host Sarah Palin
, who said she used Lauer's hair product. Wednesday, it was Ryan Seacrest
, who pretended to make off with Lauer's briefcase.
The Palin plant was simply a gag. But the Seacrest appearance had a deeper meaning, amid swirling rumors
that NBC brass is eyeing the American Idol
host and media mogul to replace Lauer should Matt – whose contract reportedly expires next year – leave his NBC job.
In an on-air interview on Wednesday's Today
, Lauer, 54, asked Seacrest, 37, point-blank if he had had conversations with NBC, and demanded "names and dates."
"Oh," joked Seacrest, "they didn't tell you?"
All kidding aside, and Lauer conceded that he thought Seacrest would do a great job as Today
host, the bottom line was that Seacrest says he has spoken to four people at the network about possibly "filling in to do the weather" – which would be Al Roker's job.
Seacrest also said he will be expanding his already busy TV duties beyond what he also does for the E! Network – which is owned by NBC Universal – and participate in NBC's primetime coverage of the Summer Olympics.
But what about Today
Seacrest told Lauer, "I see you doing this for as long as you want to." Indeed, Seacrest asked, "How long do you intend to stay?"
It ended, as it began, graciously. "There is no tension here," Lauer noted, along with the fact the two had recently discussed the matter over dinner – and that Lauer picked up the check.
As well he might. Along with rumors about Seacrest someday replacing him, there have been published reports
, though unconfirmed, that Lauer's new contract with NBC will be worth $25 million a year.