Did ‘Good Morning America’ end ‘Today’ show’s 16-year weekly victory run?


One week after Katie Couric guest-anchored ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the show beat NBC’s “Today” show by 13,000 viewers, according to early ratings that ABC ordered from Nielsen. (Donna Svennevik/ABC)
April 16, 2012

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 show beat NBC’s “Today” show by 13,000 viewers, according to early ratings that ABC ordered from Nielsen. If the stats hold up when final national ratings come in, it will mark the first weekly victory for “Good Morning America” since December 1995.

“This is an exciting day, but we will save any celebrating for when the final numbers come in on Thursday,” senior exec producer Tom Cibrowski said Monday in a statement, in which he thanked viewers and the “GMA” team.

“ ‘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,” Jim Bell, “Today’s” executive producer, said in a statement.

“GMA” has been gaining on “Today” all season. 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 half that, prompting The Reporters Who Cover Television to start prepping their end-of-an-era stories. Just prior to Couric’s guest gig (the week of March 26), 119,000 viewers were all that kept those reporters from hitting the “publish” button.


“30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin confirmed — as reported here last week and back in January — that he is signed to star on the critically acclaimed NBC’s comedy series for a seventh season. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

The return of regular “GMA” co-anchor Robin Roberts from vacation helped lift the show’s overall numbers last week by 5 percent, compared with the previous week, when Katie filled in. (Katie is prepping a daytime syndicated talk show for ABC-parent Disney that will launch in the fall — hence the week-long guest gig.)

Also boosting the show’s ratings last week: the surprise elimination Tuesday night of ABC daytime darling Sherri Shepherd from the network’s prime-time hit “Dancing With the Stars.”

Each Wednesday morning, “GMA” interviews the celebrity booted from the dance competition the night before; those Wednesday editions are generally the show’s most-watched all week.

“GMA” has 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 that “Today” was continuing to edge out “GMA” last week among the 25- to 54-year-olds who are the currency of news programming ad sales — although by the smallest margin in more than six years.

And for the record books, more people of all ages watched “GMA” than “Today.”

Some 5.147 million people welcomed Robin back last week (Katie had clocked 4.922 million).

By comparison, “Today” tallied 5.134 million viewers last week, according to fast national numbers. That’s 25,000 better than a week earlier, when “Today” 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 that he’d stick around a few more years, at a reported salary of nearly $30 million a year.

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 “GMA.” That was also the week “Today” celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Where in the World is Matt Lauer? franchise.

Oh, and last week, Matt went on vacation — ending any lingering doubts as to his relative importance to the show.

Lunching with Alec

Kicking off Alec Baldwin Week in Washington at a National Press Club luncheon Monday, the “30 Rock” star confirmed — as reported here last week and back in January — that he is signed to star on the critically acclaimed NBC’s comedy series for a seventh season.

He also said the show is going to end next year. By that, we assume he means 2013, which would suggest that NBC — which has so far been mum regarding the show’s pickup for next season — has gone ahead and ordered it because this season ends in May, whereas next season begins in fall of ’12 and ends in May ’13.

My head hurts.

On background, people at NBC tell the The TV Column that there is no development with regard to an NBC pickup of the show and that we’ll have to wait until NBC announces its new prime-time schedule to advertisers the week of May 13.

On Monday, Baldwin said he originally took the “30 Rock” gig — in which he plays NBC chief Jack Don­aghy — because it’s exec-produced by Lorne Michaels. (Baldwin holds the record as most frequent guest-host on Michaels’s NBC late-night sketch-comedy show “Saturday Night Live”). And also because it was going to be on NBC, reports The Washington Post’s Amy Argetsinger. (Read more about the National Press Club luncheon at The Reliable Source .)

NBC, Baldwin added, is the “greatest of the three networks.”

No one in the room had the heart to tell him there are four major broadcast networks. Number 4 is known as Fox.

NBC is in a “predicament” these days, Baldwin observed, by which we assume he meant “fourth-placed in the ratings.”

“They need to scrape all the paint off the building and start over,” Baldwin said, correctly. Later, he clarified, “They’re probably going to have to cancel most of their shows.”

Baldwin’s luncheon appearance became a hot ticket after he lobbed a series of angry tweets last week about his leaving NBC just in time. That latest Baldwin outburst erupted when he discovered a crew from the “Today” show camped outside his apartment. The NBC morning show was covering the story of the Canadian actress busted for allegedly stalking him after news got out that Baldwin had gotten engaged to a 29-year-old yoga instructor.

After Baldwin’s tweets went viral, NBC clarified last week that its real-life chairman, Bob Greenblatt, got it right in January, when he told a gaggle of reporters at Winter TV Press Tour 2012 that NBC had re-upped Baldwin for “30 Rock’s” seventh season.

Baldwin was referring to the fact the network had not yet announced whether “30 Rock” is being renewed for next season.

Baldwin was also set to speak at the annual Nancy Hanks lecture at the Kennedy Center on Monday night. On Tuesday, he’s the ranking A-list celebvocate for Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.

For previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

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