Never count out “Today” in the morning show wars.
The venerable NBC A.M. franchise has for weeks been losing a critical ratings category to its main rival, ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The ABC show has long been the most-watched broadcast-TV morning-news program in the nation, while “Today” typically dominates among the viewers advertisers want most — people between 25 and 54. But for more than two months, that hasn’t been the case; “GMA” has taken the lead in both overall viewership and the ad demo.
Last week put the brakes on ABC’s progress. According to Nielsen, “Today” won more viewers between 25 and 54 than its ABC competitor, albeit during a stretch leading into the long holiday weekend when all three broadcast networks “retitled” their Friday programs so what were presumably lower-than-usual audience levels wouldn’t be lumped in with the rest of the week’s crowd.
For the four days ended June 30,”Today” lured an average of 656,000 viewers between 25 and 54, according to Nielsen, compared with 625,000 for “GMA” and 458,000 for “CBS Mornings.” Meanwhile, “GMA” attracted an overall audience of nearly 2.89 million, compared with nearly 2.65 million for “Today” and 2.25 million for CBS.
Next week may prove crucial in the ratings race. Both networks will want to see if “GMA” regains the demo in a full working week or if “Today” has new momentum coming out of the holiday. In 2021, the first two hours of “Today” captured $298.2 million in advertising support, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. “GMA” attracted nearly $281 million, and CBS’ morning program won around $110.7 million, according to Kantar.
The two shows have been known to switch positions for a few weeks at a time. In December, for example, potentially buoyed by the holiday season, “Today” won more viewers than “GMA” for two consecutive weeks — reversing the shows’ usual order.
The morning programs portray themselves with references to waking up, coffee and sunshine, but behind the scenes, their efforts to stay ahead of rivals are serious and severe. Executives at NBCUniversal tend to keep their eye on how shows perform among the so-called “advertiser” demo — people between 25 and 54 for news shows and people between 18 and 49 for entertainment fare. ABC News already commands a lead in both total audience and the demo in the competition between “World News Tonight” and “NBC Nightly News,” and a longer-term loss in the demo for “Today” would not be taken lightly.
In a June interview with Variety, “GMA” senior producer Simone Swink said the program had recently focused on getting anchors and correspondents out in the field once more, now that some pandemic restrictions seem to be subsiding. “There’s more real thinking about meeting viewers where they are,” she said.