Accuracy in Media

The Today Show, which made a very sudden switch two weeks ago when it replaced co-host Ann Curry with Savannah Guthrie, continued to stumble in the ratings, losing to Good Morning America for the third straight week overall and nearly losing the demo as well.

Last week was Guthrie’s first full week as co-host. And just like her debut during the July 4th holiday week, Today not only trailed GMA in total audience, but by a margin that was 46% greater than the previous week.

Even worse for Today, GMA, which came within 24,000 viewers in the key A25-54 demo, barely missed breaking the show’s 17-year grip, trailing Today by just 2,000 viewers.

NBC hasn’t publicly expressed any concern about the poor start of the Guthrie era, but if ratings continue to wilt at this pace, and GMA manages to overtake Today in the demo, there is little doubt that the network brass will begin to panic.

As the top morning show, Today has been able to command top dollar for advertising, which led to estimated profits of $484 million in 2011, according to Kantar Media. That figure was greater than the combined profits of GMA and CBS This Morning. If GMA manages to overtake Today in the demo, then those fat profits would likely start to disappear as advertisers switch from the current top-rated show.

Guthrie does have the disadvantage of taking over under some less than pleasant circumstances. She may be suffering from some internal ill-will generated by Ann Curry’s abrupt departure as co-host. In addition, NBC didn’t widely promote the change due to the manner in which it was handled.

The Today Show, which is limping toward the start of the Summer Olympics on July 27 like an injured athlete, will be a key to the future of the show, according to NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke, who told reporters two weeks ago that the network would use the games to “revitalize The Today Show.”

That task looks even bigger than it did at the end of June, based on the recent ratings. The real test will be whether or not the show can hold on to any of the anticipated ratings gains from the Olympics and regain the momentum they lost to GMA.





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