‘Today’ show to broadcast from Sonoma County

Get ready to pour yourself another cup of morning coffee because it looks like NBC’s “Today” show could be coming to Sonoma County.

In a partnership announced Wednesday, Sonoma County tourism officials said the popular morning news and lifestyle show will broadcast from the region. Final dates and details are forthcoming, but local leaders predict the move will cast a positive national spotlight on North Bay communities.

Plans include bringing “personalities and lots of opportunities to share our beautiful destination on a national stage,” said Todd O’Leary, vice president of marketing and communications at the Sonoma County Tourism agency.

“We’re still working through details about the visit. We know it’s happening, but the components of the event, those things that will make this an interesting story, are still being developed,” added Claudia Vecchio, the agency’s president and CEO.

The show debuted in January 1952 and is celebrating its 70th year of broadcasting. It’s considered the first of its genre in the U.S. and ranks fifth on the list of the country’s longest-running television series.

“Today” features meteorologist Al Roker and co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, as well as Craig Melvin and Carson Daly, in the show’s New York City studio. It was the morning ratings leader for decades before rival “Good Morning America” on ABC caught up and surpassed it.

Peter Rumble, CEO of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, welcomed the news.

“Bringing greater national exposure to Sonoma County and its cities, like Santa Rosa, on this level would be significant,” Rumble said in an email.

“It may be hard to quantify, but we could certainly expect a positive impact on tourism and, potentially, a ripple impact to put Sonoma County on the map for people wanting to move here, and even start or move a business here.”

Tim Zahner, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, said “any positive exposure for Sonoma Valley is welcome.”

Zahner served for nearly a dozen years at Sonoma County Tourism, most of that time as chief marketing officer. He sits on the agency’s board of directors and is a member of its finance and legal committee.

“Sonoma County has always had a track record of being in the national eye and the ‘Today’ show will definitely be another component,” said Zahner, who took the reins at Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau more than four years ago.

Over the years, the county has received national coverage from multiple outlets, including ABC’s “The Bachelorette” and “Good Morning America,” among other shows.

Sonoma County Tourism, along with Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Winegrowers, joined together as a featured destination in Super Bowl 50.

During its annual meeting Wednesday, Sonoma County Tourism also recapped its last fiscal year and presented goals for its new one, which began July 1.

The tourism agency set out a number of targets for fiscal year 2022–2023, including achieving a 5% year-over-year increase in revenue to the county’s lodging properties; encouraging more overnight weekend visitors; and restarting public relations efforts in the U.K., Germany and Australia.

Also at the meeting, Jonny Westom, vice president of business development, discussed efforts to improve the perception of Sonoma County to meeting planners.

The agency commissioned Northstar Travel Group to perform a national survey of meeting planners, which found 67% had never heard of the county, and of those who have, 66% described their perception as “very good” or “excellent.”

To win over more people and raise the county’s profile, officials outlined plans to create a meetings and events video series that showcases area attractions and venues. The videos will be released in the coming weeks, Weston said.

Sonoma County Tourism also is undertaking a complete overhaul of its website, which will launch next year, said Todd O’Leary, vice president of marketing and communications.

In the next few weeks, the agency will officially introduce its mobile app, but over the summer, the tourism agency jumped on the TikTok bandwagon.

“Just to speak to the popularity of TikTok, it’s the first social media platform to reach 1 billion users, faster than any other social app,” O’Leary said. “As SCT works to reach the coveted millennial and Gen Z audiences, and as a tactic to increase brand awareness and engagement, our TikTok channel is already working hard. Since launching this channel earlier this summer, we have already garnered nearly 10,000 views.”

On the budget side, on July 1, the agency entered its fiscal year 2022-2023 with an estimated budget of $9.9 million, Vecchio said. That’s higher than its pre-pandemic budget of $8 million in fiscal year 2019-2020. The majority of the agency’s funding comes from a 2% assessment on applicable lodging rooms within the Sonoma County Tourism Business Improvement Area.

Lori Angstadt, Sonoma County Tourism’s vice president of finance and operations, said the agency spent just under $9.5 million for fiscal year 2021-2022.

“As always, the largest portion is spent on marketing and public relations, (which) was almost 60% of total expenditures,” she said. “Business development and travel trade received 16.2%; community engagement 7.4%; and administrative programs (received) 16.6%.”

This story has been updated with further comments from Sonoma County Tourism and Santa Rosa Metro Chamber on the talks with NBC about the broadcast and its potential economic impact on the region.

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