NBC’s morning news show beat ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ in average weekly viewers for the first time in weeks. ‘CBS This Morning’ remains in third.
“Today” show viewers don’t seem to miss Matt Lauer.
In fact, more people are tuning into NBC’s morning news show since the anchor was axed last week for alleged sexual misconduct than they have in months.
“Today” beat rival ABC’s “Good Morning America” in ratings for the week ending on Dec. 1, according to Nielsen Media Research – the first time that’s happened in three weeks – averaging 4.9 million viewers compared to “GMA’s” 4.36 million viewers. That’s up 14% over “Today’s” average this season.
And “Today” drew more viewers than “GMA” every single day over the past week – the first time that has happened in almost a year, ABC News acknowledged. “Today” also drew 1.7 million viewers in the coveted 25 to 54-year-old demographic.
Viewership shot up to 5.7 million on the day Lauer was fired, alone, probably as audiences tuned in to see how his colleagues were handling the fallout. Hoda Kotb was called in last-minute to co-anchor the newscast with Savannah Guthrie.
“It comes as no surprise that ‘Today’s’ ratings have increased since Matt Lauer was fired. He is now one of the higher profile names in these sexual scandals, and the curiosity factor has kicked in,” Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of Programming Insider, told Moneyish.
Former New York Daily News columnist and TV critic David Hinckley agreed. “It’s TV rubbernecking — viewers craning their necks at the sight of a wreck to see if there’s something juicy to look at,” he told Moneyish.
But the experts warned that this is probably just a temporary spike in interest, and not sustainable without naming a suitable successor.
“In time, the ratings will settle back down for ‘Today,’” said Berman. “The path for the future of ‘Today’ is to regain the trust of the audience after what is the biggest scandal in the franchise’s history.”
“CBS This Morning,” which had fired Charlie Rose the week before over similar accusations of sexual misconduct, came in third last week with 3.5 million viewers. While it hasn’t seen the same ratings spike post-scandal that “Today” has, its numbers have held steady with Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell at the helm.
“Not for lack of trying, the CBS morning show remains the outlier. For whatever reason — habit or just viewer taste — ‘Today’ and ‘GMA’ are the go-to broadcast network shows in the morning,” said Hinckley. “I suspect that viewers who want the somewhat harder-news approach of the CBS show are drained off, to some extent, by Fox and MSNBC’s morning shows.”
“Since ‘Today’ has always had a larger audience than competing ‘CBS This Morning,’ it is also not surprising to see NBC gain more viewers,” added Berman. “But the curiosity factor is only temporary, and both shows need to find adequate replacements for their fallen anchors.”
And while “Today” has been lagging behind “GMA” in overall ratings, there’s an opportunity here for it to emerge stronger. “Lauer’s departure gives the show a chance to rebrand itself in a way it could never have done with him in the center seat,” said Hinckley, “and it has two strong, well-liked anchors [Guthrie and Kotb] as part of a new foundation.”
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