The “Today” show’s 16-year-plus run as the No. 1-rated morning infotainment program is apparently over.
One week after Katie Couric guest-anchored ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the morning infotainment show finally beat NBC’s “Today” show by 13,000 viewers, according to early ratings ABC ordered from Nielsen.
If the stats hold up when final national ratings come in, it will mark “Good Morning America’s” first weekly victory since December of 1995.
“‘Today‘s’ 852-week winning streak had taken on a life of its own and as odd as it is to see it end, we should acknowledge just how remarkable it has been,” executive producer Jim Bell said in a statement. “So as we tip our caps to the team at ‘Good Morning America,’ we can also take a bow ourselves and recognize the work done by countless staffers for so long.”
ABC, however, reacted to the news a little more cautiously, at least for public consumption: “This is an exciting day but we will save any celebrating for when the final numbers come in on Thursday,” show senior exec producer Tom Cibrowski said Monday in a statement in which he thanked viewers, and the “GMA” team.
“GMA” has been gaining ratings on “Today” all this TV season. When the season started, in mid-September, about 400,000 viewers separated the two programs. In four of the past six weeks, however, the margin had narrowed to less than 200,000 viewers and The Reporters Who Cover Television started prepping their end-of-an-era stories. The week just prior to Couric’s guest gig (week of March 26) 119,000 viewers were all that kept those reporters from hitting the “publish” button.
The return of “GMA’s” regular co-anchor Robin Roberts from vacation helped boost the show’s overall numbers last week by 5 percent, compared to the previous week when Katie had filled in. (Katie’s is prepping a daytime syndicated talk show for ABC-parent Disney that will launch in the fall — hence the week-long guest gig.)
Also goosing “GMA’s” ratings last week: the surprise elimination Tuesday night of ABC daytime darling Sherri Shepherd from the network’s primetime hit, “Dancing with the Stars.”
Each Wednesday morning, “GMA” interviews the celebrity booted from the dance competition on Tuesday night, and those Wednesday editions are generally its most watched all week. “GMA” has already been known to beat “Today” on Wednesdays during “Dancing” season; during Couric’s guest gig, for instance, “GMA” scored 122,000 more viewers than “Today” on Wednesday. One week later, with Shepherd’s exit interview, “GMA” tripled that advantage.
Early numbers show “Today” continuing to edge out “GMA” last week among the 25-54 year olds who are the currency of news programming ad sales, though by the smallest margin in more than six years.
And, for the record books, more people of all ages watched “GMA” than “Today” (apparently including NBC primetime star Alec Baldwin).
About 5.147 million people welcomed Robin back from a week-long vacation (Katie had clocked 4.922 million).
Meanwhile, “Today” show tallied 5.134 million viewers last week, according to fast-national numbers. That’s 25,000 better than during Katie Couric Week, when “Today” had lined up an all-star cast to hang on to its ratings record, including Sarah Palin, Ryan Seacrest, Kim Kardashian, Tori Spelling, Nicki Minaj, and “surprise legend” Meredith Vieira – plus Matt Lauer’s big announcement he’d stick around a few more years – at a reported salary of nearly $30 million a year.
And, in case you’re wondering what that’s all about: “Today” copped its biggest audience this season, by far, the week of Nov. 7. During that November sweep week, the show averaged 6 million viewers – a whopping 815,000 viewer lead over “Good Morning America.” That was also the week “Today” celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Where in the World is Matt Lauer? Franchise.
Oh, and last week — the week that ended “Today” show’s reign — Lauer had gone on vacation, ending any lingering questions as to his relative importance to the show.