James Hibberd
January 06, 2012 AT 05:00 AM EST

He’s already the host of Fox’s American Idol, coanchor of E! News, and executive producer of Keeping Up With the Kardashians (among other reality shows). But did Ryan Seacrest include ”take over NBC’s Today show” among his 2012 resolutions? Seacrest’s contract with E! parent company NBC Universal expires early this year, and he’s angling for an expanded subsequent role — one that will likely include a presence on TV’s most lucrative program (Today generates a staggering $500 million in ad revenue a year). And with veteran Today host Matt Lauer‘s contract ending at the end of 2012, some wonder if Seacrest could end up in Today‘s top seat. ”Job 1, 2, and 3 is to find a way for Lauer to stay forever,” says a person close to the negotiations. ”In the discussions with Seacrest, there’s no ‘host of the Today show’ component…. Ryan has never said, ‘I want to be host of the Today show.”’ Seacrest will likely strike a deal that includes producing prime-time shows and specials, continuing to work on E! News, and at least occasionally filling in on Today. But if Lauer leaves Today, which has 5.4 million daily viewers and is fending off encroaching ABC rival Good Morning America, the search for a new star will certainly include Seacrest. That prospect distresses those who question Seacrest’s journalistic credentials, but the idea is not without its selling points. ”If they decided to go with Ryan Seacrest, they’re building toward the future with high name recognition and a following,” says Bill Carroll, VP/director of programming at the Katz Television Group, which includes NBC affiliates. ”The only thing that everyone could agree on is that Matt Lauer would be missed.”

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