Wake up to ‘Today’-‘GMA’ showdown

Daytime Emmys 2012

As NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” continue the battle for ratings dominance, the two shows are poised for a golden faceoff at Saturday’s Daytime Emmys.

The veteran breakfast chatfests are both nominated for top morning program and, considering their increasingly heated rivalry, the category promises to be one of the most closely watched when trophies are handed out during the ceremony, to be telecast on HLN. Not that those involved in the morning-show wars need a reminder of the stakes.

“In television, there are a lot of different awards,” says “Today” exec producer Jim Bell. “But this is the one that tends to stand out for most people. It’s the one that people that don’t work in television are aware of.”

Considering the award’s high-profile nature, it’s hard to believe it didn’t exist a few years ago. The morning show category was only established in 2007, after Brent Stanton became director of the Daytime Emmys for the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and realized there was no specific recognition for excellence in morning programming.

“I was astounded,” says Stanton, who notes that the ayem shows had previously been lumped into the special class program category, where the competition included everything from “Talk Soup” to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Bell says, “I shared that disbelief. I was like, ‘How can there not be?’ (Morning shows) are a hugely popular part of the television landscape. They’re one of the most-watched, most competitive, most diverse and hardest (kinds of) television to produce. I mean, you go from war zones to Wall Street to cooking to concerts. That doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

Even with the Academy’s recognition of morning shows as a special breed, the category can still be difficult to break into. According to Stanton, seven programs were submitted for consideration this year, though only “Today” and “GMA” emerged with nods after being scored by a panel of judges on a 10-point system based on three criteria: content, creativity and execution.

“It really does depend on the raw scores that come back from the judges (to) determine how many nominees there are going to be in any given year,” Stanton says.

“Today” and “GMA” have dominated the category in victories, with one or the other winning every year (and sharing bragging rights with a tie in 2007). While NBC’s genre pioneer was still the undisputed ratings champ in 2011, the calendar year on which nominees are being judged, it may be hard for voters to ignore all the recent buzz surrounding ABC’s “GMA,” which in April beat “Today” in the weekly ratings for the first time in 16 years and has since come out on top several times.

“Momentum is what it’s all about,” says “GMA” senior exec producer Tom Cibrowski. “You get the momentum, you want to keep the momentum. You can’t let your foot off the gas pedal.

“We know our competition is very strong in this category,” he adds. “But it’s a super-charged time filled with energy and excitement for the on-air team and the entire staff here at ‘GMA.’ ”

Daytime Emmy producers are no doubt hoping some of that excitement rubs off on their own broadcast, which has suffered ratings woes in recent years with the decline in popularity of daytime dramas. In an effort to stay relevant, the awards are featuring more categories in the live show – – 21 as opposed to 15 last year — including morning program.

“We love soaps,” says Gabriel Gornell, who’s producing this year’s telecast. “At the same time, we need to acknowledge the shift in programming from daytime dramas to daytime content. So many people start their day with a cup of coffee and a morning show, and we want to pay tribute to that.”

Daytime Emmys 2012
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