‘GMA’ narrows ‘Today’ lead in ayem race

With Oscar and 'Dancing' coverage, ABC has strong week

Buoyed by post-Oscar coverage and a “Dancing With the Stars” reveal, “Good Morning America” shrunk the margin between itself and first place “Today” to the lowest level in five years.

For the week of Feb. 27, “GMA” averaged 5.36 million viewers while NBC’s ayem goliath “Today” drew 5.52 million. That represented the smallest margin between the two programs since 2007. In the 25-54 demo, which is most important to the newsies, “GMA” drew 1.8 million while “Today” drew 2.1 million — the lowest between the two in four years.

“Today” has beaten both ABC and CBS’ ayem programs for the last 16 years, but the lead has been decreasing of late.

The ratings data was released on the same day a report surfaced that Matt Lauer, whose Peacock deal ends toward the end of the year, was reportedly set to sign a multiyear pact that would pay him $25 million a year.

NBC denied the report and said there has been no current ongoing negotiations.

Lauer has been a steadying force on “Today,” which is a four-hour weekday staple for NBC. Lauer became a permanent anchor in 1994 and, along with co-anchor Katie Couric, helped establish “Today” as a ratings powerhouse and the most profitable show on the network.

Katz Television Group VP Bill Carroll said NBC needs to offer Lauer the right package — a combination of money and possible new program opportunities — to convince him to stay and make sure there is continuity at “Today,” especially since the program has recently undergone personnel changes.

“Folks can get tired of that particular (early morning) grind, but assuming he has the enthusiasm and wants to stay, they have to find a way to make that happen,” Carroll said.

Ryan Seacrest, who joined the NBCUniversal family following the Comcast merger, was floated as a possible “Today” anchor if Lauer leaves his post.

Lauer could depart “Today” for a syndicated talkshow program — following in the footsteps of Couric, whose new skein “Katie” begins this September — but ayem success doesn’t necessarily translate to daytime.

“Unless you’re talking about a network-originated program, such as ‘The View’ or ‘The Talk,’ syndication is a whole other game,” Carroll said. “You have to get the best time periods and best stations in every market and then hope you’re not going against established perennial programs.”

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