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The Morning Show Wars

‘Today’ Goes Coast-to-Coast, ‘Hoping that the Past is the Past’

“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen up close.”

That’s Willie Geist‘s assessment of a day of reporting on the aftermath of Monday’s EF5 tornado in Moore, OK. “I think what you can’t convey is the scope of the damage.” Which is why people like Geist go to places like this — to try and describe it for us all.

Late Tuesday, Geist caught a flight to Chicago, where TVNewser caught up with him and his third hour co-host Natalie Morales. With Matt Lauer and Al Roker remaining in Oklahoma, and Savannah Guthrie back in New York, the Chicago remote was a remnant of an interrupted, week-long cross-country trip which began Monday in Hawaii.

Today will close out the week with a live broadcast from the Jersey shore where residents there continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Morales surveyed the Oklahoma devastation via helicopter Tuesday. “It was like a bowling ball, that was a mile-and-a-half wide, rolled through and completely devastated neighborhoods,” she says. “It sort of ties it all together, to talk about the Jersey Shore rebuilding.”

Along with special co-host, Gov. Chris Christie, Lauer, Guthrie, Roker, Morales, and Geist will all be on hand. Morales says the group is feeling “new energy” after a turbulent year in the morning show wars.

“We’re a much stronger team now for that. That’s where our true grit and our character have come through,” she says.

“I’m hoping that the past is the past. We just want to carry on and continue to do what we want to do best, which is, when a big story is breaking, like you saw in Oklahoma, we rally. We’re all there. We’re all about making sure people are getting the stories they want to hear and see.”

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‘GMA’ Shrinks Gap with ‘Today’ to Lowest in 4 Years

Bloomberg has an interesting look today at the increasingly competitive morning show ratings battle. As we’ve reported, ABC’s “Good Morning America” has seen major growth in the past year, shrinking the gap that divides them from the perennial morning show leader, NBC’s “Today,” to a four-year low. Although NBC still leads ABC by about 500,000 viewers in two ratings categories — total viewers and the A25-54 demographic — Bloomberg examines some key factors in the “GMA” surge:

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts, hosts of “Good Morning America,” are connecting with audiences after the show’s long-tenured hosts, Charles Gibson and [Diane] Sawyer, left in 2006 and 2009, according to James Goldston, who took over as executive producer five months ago.

Goldston said “Good Morning America” has revamped its cooking segments and other standing features to make them less predictable and more distinctive. The program has also introduced a daily entertainment segment.

“We’ve got a show that is working very well,” Goldston said. “We’re heading into the fall and the future with more confidence.”

Read more

Experian Hitwise: Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, TBS’ Conan Rising

Fox News Channel’s America’s Newsroom and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews continued to wrestle for third place on Experian Hitwise’s list of cable-news-show websites, with America’s Newsroom claiming the spot for the week ending April 30. The top two were unchanged for the third consecutive week: Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.

The top two late-night talk-show sites were also unchanged from the week ending April 23 — Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report — but TBS’ Conan surged into third place, bumping NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

As usual, there was no change in the morning-news-show rankings: NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS’ The Early Show.

Broadcast and Cable Report 043011

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‘Today’ Tops ‘Early Show’ on the Ballfield

Wragge_8.20.jpgAfter their shows this morning, the teams from NBC’s “Today” and the CBS “Early Show” headed to the Heckscher ballfields in New York’s Central Park. At one point in the softball game “Early” had a two-run lead, but the “Today” team came back to win it 6-4.

Among the players on the “Early Show” squad, weekend morning anchor Chris Wragge (pictured) who also anchors the 5:00 and 11:00 on WCBS-TV along with WCBS weather guy Lonnie Quinn.

• Check out a cool slideshow of the game here.

(Photo: Anthony Quintano)

Glenn Beck’s Homecoming, Part Warm Welcome & Part Cold Shoulder

BeckHS_9.24.jpgTomorrow is Glenn Beck Day in Mount Vernon, Washington. The Fox News host will receive a ceremonial key to the city and speak at $25-per-person sold out event. But not everyone in the town of 32,000 north of Seattle is happy about it.

The idea came from Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris who knew beck as a youngster. He’s been working on it for more than a year, when Beck was still a host for HLN. Mayor Norris is even picking up the tab. “I decided to recognize him for his professional achievement, not for his political views,” the mayor tells the AP‘s Manuel Valdes.

But the 7-member Mount Vernon city council isn’t happy about it and Wednesday night they unanimously passed a resolution stating, “Mount Vernon City Council is in no way sponsoring the Mayor’s event on September 26, 2009 and is not connected to the Glenn Beck event in any manner.” The council was given a petition bearing more than 16,000 names from those opposing Glenn Beck Day.

What do the locals think?

“I’m really sorry that it is happening,” said Rosie Gates-Malone, a Mount Vernon resident. “I think Glenn Beck is an extremely divisive, controversial person. He doesn’t bring people together. I think it was a big mistake on our mayor’s part.”

Allison Moreland, who owns a business in downtown Mount Vernon, disagrees: “I think the mayor has the prerogative to do what he wants. The little bit I’ve listened to, I pretty much go along with (Beck’s) stuff, what he’s saying about the government. I think a lot of people need to hear it.”

(Photo: Glenn Beck’s 1982 high school yearbook photo, courtesy of Sehome High School, Bellingham, WA)

Getting the Lost Divers Onto the Couch

lauer_5-27.jpgBefore the morning news shows play nice tomorrow, this morning saw what appeared to be a major booking battle between NBC’s Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America.

Today’s Matt Lauer interviewed Alison Dalton and Dick Neely, the two missing divers who were rescued after spending 19 hours drifting in the ocean. NBC’s report and interview can be found here.

At the same time on ABC, GMA’s Chris Cuomo had a different story about the divers altogether. “Why did they rush to sell their story to the media?” he asked, focusing on the other side of the story. The couple have admitted to selling their story to Australia’s Channel 9.

“We did reach out to Dalton and Nealy ourselves. They did not want to interview with us,” he said, seeming to imply ABC was not prepared to pay for the interview.

Lauer brought up the criticisms of the couple at the end of his interview, including the fact that they had sold their story. “Not to us, I should mention,” he said.

Click continued to see Cuomo’s full report on GMA…

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NBC To Combine West Coast Ops In New “Green” Facility

The LATimesMeg James and Matea Gold report that NBC is saying so long to beautiful downtown Burbank and moving to Universal City. (via ICN)

The new “green” facility, with its high-definition news headquarters, is scheduled to house NBC News’ West Coast operations and the local news staffs of KNBC and Telemundo’s KVEA-TV. NBC Universal expects to move into the new center in 2011.

“I think this is a real pronouncement of a serious commitment on the company’s part to news and information going forward,” said Steve Capus, president of NBC News, adding that the new Universal City headquarters would give his division a “central nervous system.”

The Times piece mentions NBC News’ East Coast operations are also undergoing a transformation. NBC is set to unveil its new combined NBC/MSNBC operations today at 30 Rock. More on that tomorrow…

Softball: Today Beats GMA, 8-7

The Today Show beat Good Morning America, barely, in today’s high-stakes softball game in Central Park today.

In a game that went into extra innings, Tiki Barber (ringer) and Al Roker (third base coach) helped NBC win 8-7.

[Insert metaphor about winning on air on and on the field here.]

Early in the game, the ump made a wrong call against GMA pitcher Chris Cuomo. The ump admitted it, and Cuomo and GMA graciously bowed out.

An insider says one of the funniest moments of the game came when Diane Sawyer tried to tackle Barber as he was warming up.

Later, Tiki came over to the GMA dugout for a drink and hot dog…

Off The Tube & Onto The Field

Leaving the booking wars behind, Good Morning America and the Today show are taking their morning battle to Central Park.

Staffers from the shows will take their rivalry to the softball field this afternoon. Today might have an advantage with former NFL running back Tiki Barber on the roster, but GMA’s Robin Roberts was a star on the college basketball team at Southeastern Louisiana University…

The Morning Show EP War

This isn’t just a morning show war anymore; it’s a morning show EP war. In today’s Washington Post, it starts with GMA EP Jim Murphy: “The ‘Today’ show can continue to cover the Anna Nicole Smith hearings… They do have an overabundance of tabloid stuff. They are just pandering because they’re not doing as well as they expected to do.”

Then the others chime in:

 Steve Friedman, CBS’s vice president of morning programming, says Vieira “hasn’t mastered the rhythms of morning television yet. She appears a little uneasy and a little uncomfortable. I do believe there is more talk and less news on the ‘Today’ show in this incarnation, and that has given us and ‘GMA’ an opportunity, at least in our own minds, to attack them on the news end.”

Jim Bell, executive producer of “Today,” laughs off the criticism. He says “Dr. Frankenstein” could not have created a better co-host, noting that Vieira is a wife, a mother and a former “60 Minutes” correspondent. “She’s brought a wonderful personality and sense of humor and mischievousness,” he says.

Bell dismisses as “hogwash” suggestions that the show’s content has significantly changed and has little patience for sniping by Friedman, who has twice served as the “Today” producer. “Mr. Friedman and company are obsessed with us,” Bell says. “While they’re obsessed with us, we will pave the road for others to follow.”

Check out the rest of Howard Kurtz‘s story…