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Posted at 04:13 PM ET, 04/09/2012

‘Today’ narrowly beats ‘GMA’ in weekly ratings to maintain winning streak

Matt Lauer and Gov. Sarah Palin talk politics on “Today.” (NBC NewsWire - PETER KRAMER/NBC)
Armed with Sarah Palin, Ryan Seacrest, Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, Tori Spelling, Octomom, and a “surprise legend,” NBC’s “Today” show successfully swatted off intense Katie Couric competition from ABC’s “Good Morning America” last week, Friday’s ratings confirm.

Bloodied but victorious, “Today” emerged with its more than 16-year record, as the weekly ratings winner among morning infotainment shows, intact.

Only 25,000 viewers separated “Today” (4.719 million viewers) and “GMA” (4.694 million) on Friday, according to early stats issued Monday afternoon.

Couric guest hosts "Good Morning America (Fred Lee - ABC)
For the week, “Today” averaged 5.109 million viewers, to “GMA’s” 4.899 million, and hangs on to its impressive 16-plus year winning streak. Just 210,000 viewers separated the two shows — though that was actually bigger than the previous week’s gap of 119,000 viewers.

But, as ABC noted Monday, “GMA’s” crowd grew 2 percent compared to same week last year, while “Today’s” audience fell 5 percent.

Friday’s the day “Today” anchor-in-chief Matt Lauer made his big announcement: he’s sticking with the show a few more years. (According to various sources it will cost NBC close to $30 mil a year to hang on to Lauer — which puts him in the neighborhood of Charlie Sheen’s salary on his final season of “Two and a Half Men.”)

After “GMA” announced it had booked former “Today” sweetheart Courc to fill in for co-anchor Robin Roberts all week, “Today” came up with its own boffo bookings.

On Monday, a promised “surprise legend” turned out just to be NBC News staffer Meredith Vieira, visiting her old stomping grounds to announce she’d join them in covering the Summer Olympics in London.

Tuesday, Palin “guest hosted” one hour of the show to weigh in on Oprah Winfrey, Tori Spelling’s mini cupcakes, the GOP presidential hopefuls, Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy weight gain, and other heady matters.

Ryan Seacrest on “Today” (NBC NewsWire - Episodic)
Wednesday, Seacrest visited Matt, to tell him he’d joined the NBC “family,” that his first assignment would be Summer Games coverage, and to ask how much longer Matt planned to stick around. Plus, Kardashin stopped by to look hot and play innocent, and Minaj performed — though it was nowhere near as compelling as her Grammy Awards self-exorcism number. (Katie Couric beat “Today” that day — her only daily win last week.)

Thursday, Octomom visited “Today” to discuss the country’s welfare program and her topless photo shoot.

By  |  04:13 PM ET, 04/09/2012

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