NBC's morning show down 8% in viewers

NBC’s dominant ayem franchise “Today” slipped in the ratings and CBS’ “Early Show” appears to be picking up the loose change.

“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.

With three days remaining in February sweeps, “Today” is off 8% in total viewers, and is on course to average 6 million for the month, down from 6.55 million a year ago.

It’s the show’s first season in 15 years without Katie Couric, but “Today” still holds a 25% margin over “GMA,” which has had trouble adding viewers without former co-anchor Charles Gibson.

For the season, “GMA” is down 5% from a year ago when Gibson was co-anchoring with Diane Sawyer. By contrast, “Today” is down 4% without Couric. CBS is down 2% overall compared with last season.

ABC’s “GMA” is roughly flat in February compared to last year, averaging 5.2 million, but closed the gap with “Today” with help from the Oscars and heavily promoted appearances by Bob Woodruff to talk about his recovery from injuries suffered in Iraq.

CBS’ “Early Show” was buoyed by the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, and averaged 3.38 million the following week, an 18% increase. For the month so far CBS is averaging 3.3 million, up 12%.

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