‘Early’s’ lazy Eye

Viewers drift away or don't tune in new CBS ayemer

In its first full week on the air, CBS’ Bryant Gumbel-Jane Clayson-hosted “The Early Show” has essentially maintained the net’s uncompetitive position in the ayem daypart.

Yes, “Early” was up over the Eye’s season-to-date averages, but competing news/talkers increased by similar percentages.

In its first week, beginning Nov. 1, CBS’ rose 17% from its fall average of 2.70 million viewers with the old “This Morning” to 3.16 million with “Early,” but daypart kingpin NBC’s “Today” was also up 17% and remained far ahead, growing from 5.68 million to 6.63 million. ABC’s “Good Morning America” lagged a bit, improving by 9% from 4.12 million to 4.50 million, but still easily outpaced “Early.”

These across-the-board ratings increases were fueled by viewer interest in the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990. But the air tragedy worked against “The Early Show,” according to Steve Friedman, senior executive producer, “Early Show.” “When people watch TV for a big news story, they tend to tune into what they’re used to watching as opposed to taking a chance on the new guy,” Friedman said.

Matched set

All three nets last week basically matched their season-to-date early morning shares in households. “Today” held steady with a 20, “GMA” slipped from a 15 to a 14, and CBS maintained a 10. All shares in adults 25-54 exactly equaled season-to-date averages (21 for “Today,” 14 for “GMA” and 9 for “Early”). “The good news for everybody is that the time period is growing,” said Friedman.

Shares are percentages measured against only those viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved, so they effectively factor out fluctuations in viewership levels such as last week’s surge in interest caused by the EgyptAir crash.

Given CBS’ strong promotional push behind “Early” and the Monday viewership gains generated by the series’ launch, these weeklong results indicate some viewers quickly drifted away and that CBS could be in for a slower build in the daypart than had been anticipated.

Looking ahead

Still, the fate of the new show won’t be decided for quite some time, Friedman said, adding, “When we came out, we said we wanted to do a show that looked like it had been on for six months. We accomplished that. The real question is: Where will we be in February?”

For the moment, though, “Early” has a long road ahead. Overnight ratings for the first three mornings of the current week’s shows remained at the depressed levels of late last week.

“Early’s” Nov. 8-10 households average in Nielsen’s metered markets is a 2.4 rating, 8 share, down 17% from the previous week’s three-day average of a 2.9/9. “Today” is down 9%, from a 5.6/19 to a 5.1/17, while “GMA’s” overnights have held steady at a 4.2/14.