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The Morning Show Wars

Steve Friedman Is On The Offensive

“All three morning shows have network spin doctors touting every ratings gain posted by their programs and trashing the competition when the numbers slip,” the latest edition of TV Week notes.

Steve Friedman says his Early Show is “getting the viewers the Today show is losing.” He thinks NBC is going soft, saying: “Both we and GMA have decided to attack the ‘Today’ show on news. We’re trying to make [Early] a harder, smarter show.”

Here’s the full story…

“Different Shows, Different Spins”

…That’s the title of this Michael Starr item:

  ‘Good Morning America’ wants you to know that, in the just-completed February sweeps, it didn’t decline in total viewers, even with new weather guy Sam Champion and new news anchor Chris Cuomo.

Over on ‘Today,’ they’d like you to know that last week, even when ‘GMA’ was basking in the post-Oscars glow, ‘Today’ still beat its rival by 600,000+ viewers.

Everyone happy now? (Don’t answer that.)
 

Six Months Of Couric: How Are The Morning Shows Faring Without Her?

> Update: 4:57pm: When the final numbers come out on Thursday, Today will show its lowest rating in 12 years in households, women 25-54, adults 25-54, and women 18-49…

> Update: 3:07pm: An e-mailer wonders: “Is it possible that Katie Couric is more valuable to the Early Show by not being on Today than she is to the Evening News?…”

February sweep ratings suggest that NBC misses Katie Couric. Last month, Today was down 8 percent in total viewers and 9 percent in the 25-54 demo versus the same month last year. It marked NBC’s lowest-rated sweep in more than a decade in the demo.

Good Morning America has flat in viewers and down 5 percent in the demo. And The Early Show was up 11 percent in viewers and up 3 percent in the demo.

Sweep-to-sweep, the gap between Today and GMA has tightened from 810,000 to 632,000 in the demo (22 percent smaller) and from 1,320,000 to 796,000 in viewers (40 percent smaller). Here’s a chart from ABC showing the change; click on it to view full-size:

gmatodaymar52.jpg


> Update: 4:33pm: The above chart doesn’t show season-to-date details. 2007 STD, Today is averaging 5,758,000 total viewers, compared to 5,999,000 in 2006 STD. GMA is averaging 4,938,000, compared to 5,177,000 in ’06. The ’07 season-to-date gap stands at 820,000, compared to 822,000 last season…

Feb. Sweeps: Today Down 8 Percent vs. ’06

“Today’s ratings loss is Early’s gain,” Variety reports:

“Today is on course to finish first in February sweeps by a wide margin over ABC’s Good Morning America, but it is doing so with 500,000 fewer viewers than last season, when it was lifted by its coverage of the Olympics in Torino.

Meanwhile, CBS’ perennial third-place Early Show gained some ground, helped by the Super Bowl, adding 12% in total viewers over the same frame last year.”

A Tale Of Two Weathermen

weathermenfeb26.jpg


Monday on the morning shows: Good Morning America’s Sam Champion on the left (in the snow) and the Today Show’s Al Roker on the right (in NBC’s Burbank studio)…

‘Today,’ With Vieira, Stays In First Place

morningshowsdec.jpgEP Jim Bell says Meredith Vieira‘s transition to Today has been “too smooth,” “too good.”

“The average Today audience of 5.8 million viewers during the first two months of Vieira’s tenure was about the same as it was during Couric’s tenure in 2005,” the AP’s David Bauder writes. At the same time, GMA has slipped: “Since Vieira took over, there have been 22 days where Today had a lead of more than a million viewers, compared to six times during the same period a year before.”

On the other hand, GMA pulled within 330,000 viewers of Today the week of Nov. 13, the story notes. But a week before, the gap was at 680,000, and a week after, the gap grew to 990,000…

Is Someone Telling A Lie About Religion?

How’d Diane Sawyer and Matt Lauer end up in Jerusalem on the same day last week? TV Week tries to sort it out. Today EP Jim Bell said Lauer was supposed to go to Jerusalem for May sweeps but “GE security asked us to reconsider,” so they pushed it to November sweeps. He says it’s another example of GMA following Today.

GMA senior EP Jim Murphy responds: “[Seven wonders of the world] is a big-concept thing. They came up with a small-concept thing. I find it just unusual that people would tell little white lies when discussing shows about religion.

> Also: “We don’t make programming decisions based on Diane Sawyer — it’s not personal,” a Today insider said over the weekend. “It’s about putting on the best possible program, not resting on our laurels, remaining number one, being competitive. If anyone can appreciate that, it would be Diane Sawyer. She is a brilliant journalist and arguably one of the most competitive titans in the industry. Period.”

Diane & Matt In Jerusalem: Coincidence?

jerusalemnov10.jpg


An e-mailer asks: “Was it just a coincidence that Matt Lauer and Diane Sawyer were both in Jerusalem this morning?”

I think not. ABC’s been promoting its long-planned “7 New Wonders of the World” sweeps month event for weeks, publishing an ad asking “is this one?” last month.

whatisitnov10.jpgSuddenly this week, NBC started promoting a series on religion under a similar slogan, called “what is it?” In a press release today, NBC said “The Mystery of Faith” is a week-long series. Then why did it start on a Friday? And why was it just announced today?

“As for Jerusalem, GMA has had permits to shoot in the old city for months. Today only applied for its permit last week,” an ABC e-mailer says. “GMA became aware of Today’s plans and moved the Diane Sawyer segment from this coming Monday to this morning. Then — surprise surprise — the Today Show moved its Jerusalem origination to this morning as well. Coincidence? Not likely. It’s weird to watch Today go to such lengths to try to blunt Diane Sawyer.”

AM TV: Trying To “Stop That Machine”

The AP’s David Bauder previews the new AM TV wars:

“The first part of the ‘Today’ show summer mystery has been answered affirmatively: viewers did not abandon morning television’s pacesetter because Katie Couric left after 15 years. Now comes the second, more important question. Will those same viewers embrace Meredith Vieira?”

Highlights: Bauder says most of Steve Friedman‘s Early Show work “could be described as tinkering;” Jim Murphy says “it’s difficult to stop that machine,” referring to Matt Lauer; and the trickiest part of adding a fourth hour of Today “is figuring out logistics on newsy days when the first hour is redone live for the West Coast while the fourth hour is on in the East…”

‘Today’ On Top, No Matter The Talent?

Variety sums up the summer morning wars: “Ratings-wise, Today is looking every bit the juggernaut it was before Couric left. In the eight weeks since she left the show, Today has actually padded its lead over GMA in total viewers. The gap stands now at 20%, double what it was the same time last year.”

Michael Learmonth adds: “The show’s ratings lead, built in large part on regular Today subs like [David] Gregory, [Campbell] Brown and Lester Holt, not to mention expanded roles for Lauer, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales has Today execs feeling like they’ve built a system even more powerful than the talent.

> Also: “The show’s signature street-level studio will be rebuilt with a lighter color palette, video screens instead of static backgrounds and mosaic glass…”

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