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Matt Lauer’s Q Scores Rise Along With ‘Today’ Ratings

Matt Lauer’s relationship with TV audiences in the morning has taken a turn for the better.

The “Today” anchor caught some flak in 2012 when NBC ousted his co-host, Ann Curry, from the popular morning show. As viewers fumed, Lauer’s Q Score, a measure of likeability that is used by advertisers and media companies to vet celebrities for commercial and programming opportunities, fell. In 2015, however, ratings for “Today” are growing, and so too are Lauer’s numbers, particularly among women.

Among women 18 or older, Lauer’s Q Score has moved from an 8 to a 12 over the past year, said Henry Schafer, executive vice president of The Q Scores Company, which is based in Manhasset, NY. The score is on par with that of George Stephanopoulos, the co-host of rival “Good Morning America.” The ABC program swiped the title of the most-watched morning show in the U.S. from “Today” in April of 2012, a few months before Curry left the program in June of that year.

To be sure, the scores do not match the levels Lauer enjoyed before the “Today” kerfuffle. Yet his Q Score increase “is on the cusp of being a fairly significant change,” said Schafer. Lauer’s overall Q Score has moved from an 8 in recent years to a 10. Schafer said.

Lauer’s score was most recently calibrated in February and is set for a re-examination next month, said Schafer. His growing appeal to female viewers comes as NBC’s “Today” has been making inroads in the ratings against its ABC rival: “Today” trumped “GMA” in the audience that advertisers in news programming covet most – viewers between 25 and 54 – in three of the last four weeks and four of the last seven, according to Nielsen.

Lauer’s rebound in one measure of popularity suggests some of the hand-wringing over the host’s fate in 2012 may have been just that.

In the Spring of 2012, speculation held that NBC might replace Lauer, who has been a key face of “Today” since joining the program in 1994 as a news anchor. In June of 2014, NBC unveiled a new deal with the host that will keep him at “Today” for what is expected to be at least two years.

Among consumers, Q Scores are some of the most recognizable facets of the media and advertising industries’ efforts to quantify that ephemeral property known as “buzz,” but advertising executives caution they consider a range of factors in determining the heat quotient of a particular celebrity or newscaster.

The Q Scores are “still valuable,” said Mike Wiese, head of branded content and entertainment at JWT, a large ad agency that is part of Britain’s WPP, but “there’s access to all this data and especially what’s happening in real time,” he said. “You need that to help benchmark what you’re trying to do.”

And there are other measures, too. Omnicom Group, the large U.S. ad conglomerate, measures celebrity appeal through an index offered by its Marketing Arm unit that examines eight different attributes relating to famous people. “We have got to be incredibly precise” when trying to determine how celebrities relate to consumers, said John Osborn, president and chief executive of the New York office of Omnicom’s large BBDO agency.

No matter how Lauer or Stephanopoulos fare in the estimation of the executives who put together Q Scores, they will likely not trump Robin Roberts. According to Schafer, the “GMA” co-host is “the biggest individual force. No other host in that daypart is as close to her appeal.”

Yet even this personality is subject to the whims of the audience. According to Schafer, Roberts’ overall Q Score has dropped to 22 from a 26 in 2011.

Roberts became an inspirational figure as she fought both breast cancer, in 2007 and 2008, and grappled with myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease of the bone marrow, in 2012 and 2013. Since her return in 2013 from a medical leave, there has been less focus by viewers on her health. Schafer attributed the change in her score to the rise of other morning programs, like “CBS This Morning” on CBS and “New Day” on CNN.

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