Morning news race a tight one

'Today' wins last week but 'GMA' is closing the gap

NBC has prevailed over ABC in the most buzzed-about week in the morning news derby in quite a while, but the trend lines clearly favor the Alphabet’s “Good Morning, America.”

Though NBC’s “Today Show” staved off the challenge of facing former co-host Katie Couric in her guest-host role on rival “GMA,” ABC has made a meaningful cut into the Peacock’s season-to-date lead. In fact, “GMA” is closer to “Today” at this point of the television season than it has been in 16 years.

Looking at last week through Thursday, Nielsen estimates that “Today” outdrew “GMA” by about 260,000 viewers on average (5.21 million to 4.95 million), with the Peacock institution winning on three of four days. “Today” also held a roughly 320,000-viewer edge in the key news demo of adults 25-54 (2.19m to 1.87m)

The week featured Couric, stepping in for vacationing Robin Roberts and alongside George Stephanopoulos, as a competitor to the show she fronted for 15 years. And “Today”did its part to make noise during the week, too.

The Peacock show promised the return of a TV icon on Monday (turned out to be Meredith Viera), promoted a big NBC-related announcement from Ryan Seacrest (turns out, he’ll be doing some Olympics work for the net this summer) and also featured host Matt Lauer announcing that he had signed a new contract with the show. Oh, and then there was the addition of Sarah Palin into the mix, with the former Alaska governor co-hosting “Today” with Lauer on Tuesday. (And for good measure, that meant she was taking on Couric, who had a memorable interview with Palin during the 2008 election.)

“Today” won three of last week’s first four days by 333,000 viewers or more, with “GMA” eking ahead on Wednesday (5.24m vs. 5.15m). The NBC show continues to fare better competitively in the 25-54 demo, where it led every day by at least 225,000 viewers.

The margin of victory last week (at least through the four days of preliminary nationals) was a bit bigger than NBC has enjoyed of late. Ratings released Thursday by Nielsen for the frame of March 26-30 showed “GMA” pulling to within 120,000 viewers on average (4.98m vs. 4.86m) — its closest finish to “Today” in nearly seven years.

CBS remains well behind the leaders with its revamped “CBS This Morning,” which averaged just 2.42 million viewers for the last week of March.

For the season, “GMA” has trimmed “Today’s” advantage by roughly 40% in both total viewers and adults 25-54 vs. its gaps of last season through 28 weeks. The ABC program is the only show up season-to-date vs. last year (5% in total viewers and 8% in 25-54), while “Today” is off 2% in total viewers and 7% in the demo, and “CBS This Morning” is down about 10% in both categories.

ABC notes that “GMA” is posting its smallest season-to-date margins relative to “Today” in total viewers (512,000) and adults 25-54 (442,000) since the 1995-96 season. That was the last time “Today” lost a week to “GMA,” with the NBC show now having won 850 consecutive weeks.

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