After launching an early-afternoon version of the A.M. mainstay in 2018, the Disney-owned network now plans to double the hours of the show’s Saturday broadcast. Starting October 5, Saturday’s “GMA” will air starting at 8 a.m. in nearly 100 markets, including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. All told, the new two-hour broadcast – anchored by Dan Harris (pictured, above) Eva Pilgrim, Whit Johnson and Rob Marciano – will reach 40% of the U.S, though ABC said more stations will air the show in months to come.
All of ABC’s owned-and-operated stations have committed to airing the expanded show by early 2020, after the end of the college football season, ABC News said. At present, the Saturday hour airs at different times in different markets, depending on the needs of local stations.
“Every weekend viewers turn to ‘GMA’ for the news they need to start their day,” said Mike Milhaven, the senior broadcast producer of “GMA” weekend broadcasts, in a statement. “I’m thrilled to have another hour on Saturdays to tell these important stories and highlight the work of our incredible team.”
ABC has appeared keen in recent months to broaden the “GMA” franchise. There is reason to do so. The main two weekday hours of “GMA” generated approximately $359.1 million in ad dollars for ABC in 2017, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. Yet that figure is significantly lower than what NBC gets from the first two hours of rival “Today,” which have in the past nabbed more than $500 million in a year from Madison Avenue. One way to wring more revenue out of “GMA” is to amplify its presence on the schedule, giving advertisers more of the property to sponsor.
“GMA” can be an easier sell than a new program. Media buyers say the morning show is a known quantity to advertisers, and that more hours can lead to broader purchases of ad inventory. During the Trump administration, consumption of news programming has soared. National TV spending in the news genre has increased 30% since 2015, according to VAB, a trade organization representing the TV networks, rising to about $7.38 billion from about $5.68 billion.
The path to success in the A.M. can be fraught. NBC News ran into severe headwinds when it attempted to launch a 9 a.m. showcase for anchor Megyn Kelly in the fall of 2017. And ABC News has had to recalibrate some of the operations of the early-afternoon program once known as “GMA Day.” Keke Palmer recently joined hosts Michael Strahan and Sara Haines at the helm of that program, a bid to add a third hour to “GMA” on weekdays.
ABC launched “GMA Saturday” in 2004, and said the program has led competitors in both the demographic favored by advertisers – people between 25 and 54 – and in overall audience for seven seasons.