Is it possible for one TV show to rank at the top of the ratings chart for 16 years straight? Apparently, it is. The Today show did just that. It ranked at the top of the ratings for 16 years, but not anymore.
This winning streak started in 1995, with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric as the main anchors for the show. All in all, the Today show took the top ratings for 852 weeks in a row, garnering as much as $484 million for NBC in 2011.
This fall from grace comes after NBC signed Matt Lauer for an extension on his contract. This extension now makes him the most paid host on television news, raking in an estimated $25 million per year for the next four years. This week, however, Matt Lauer was on vacation. The loss of Today’s winning streak has been attributed, in part, to Matt Lauer’s week of paid vacation. This does speak for Lauer’s job security on the show, and poses a serious question about any vacations in the future.
Due to Lauer’s paid vacation, David Gregory and Carl Quintanilla were the stand-ins this past week. The fall from grace can’t be completely ascribed to Gregory and Quintanilla, however, since the morning guests have a lot to do with the ratings.
For the week, the Today show had 5.134 million viewers and Good Morning, America had 5.147 million viewers. Good Morning, America won the count for the week by 13,000 viewers, although Today still beat GMA out by 254,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic.
So, for Good Morning, America, it is a small victory, but a victory none the less. Final numbers will be in Thursday, so ABC News execs are still cautious about bragging, but Tom Cibrowski, GMA senior executive producer, did issue a statement. In it, he said that it was an exciting day (when the initial numbers came in), but that ABC would save the celebrating for the final tally on Thursday. He went on to say, as with every week, he wanted to thank the viewers and GMA team for their dedication.
The Today show executive producer, Jim Bell, also issued a statement. In it, he acknowledged how remarkable a streak the show has had, and said he tipped his cap to the team of Good Morning, America. He went on to say that the winning streak of the Today show was one of the most incredible accomplishments in television history, but that it had never defined the people at NBC, and that NBC would continue to be innovative, take risks and lead the way.
ABC’s fractional win could also be contributed, in part to the guest stars that Good Morning, America had to offer for the week. Sherri Shepherd appeared as a guest on Wednesday, after being eliminated from Dancing with the Stars, and Robin Roberts, co-host for GMA went to Jacksonville to interview Tim Tebow and his mother.
Only time will tell if Good Morning, America will be able to keep its crown.