Americans addicted to waking up with their warm, cozy “Today” family were shocked by the ruthless, messy, money-driven backstage maneuverings as NBC (1) humiliated Old Faithful ANN CURRY, (2) hinted they were wooing third-hour host SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, then (3) suddenly dangled a staggering big bucks$$ offer under sleepy-head MEREDITH VIEIRA’s nose…but here’s the tear-jerker scoop revealed by My Network Spy:

You read here first that NBC offered Vieira a staggering $20 million dollars (double her old salary) to haul her butt out of bed and return as MATT LAUER’s “Today” co-host – and that she’d shockingly turned it down flat – “but Matt just refused to give up! "He suddenly stepped in and made a personal plea, literally begging Meredith to return,” revealed my source.

"“He told her he’ll never have on-camera chemistry with anyone like he does with her. He said he’d spotted ‘the spark in your eyes’ when they co-anchored the London Royal Jubilee celebrations, reminded her of all the fabulous times they’d shared, then pleaded, ‘Please… please reconsider!’”

"Deeply touched, Meredith actually burst into tears!

“She was totally moved by Matt’s sincerity and affection, and very torn.

"But as much as she’s missed her regular spot on the show and her ‘Today’ family, she’s enjoying time with her real family, and a newly relaxed lifestyle.

"Despite Matt’s heartfelt plea, no one really held out much hope for Meredith’s comeback.”