ShareThis Page
Movies/TV

Matt-Lauer-free 'Today' still tops morning show ratings, but NBC's lead is shrinking

| Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, 10:21 a.m.
Co-anchors Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie embrace on the New York City set of the 'Today' show on Nov. 29, after NBC News fired host Matt Lauer for 'inappropriate sexual behavior.'
Co-anchors Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie embrace on the New York City set of the 'Today' show on Nov. 29, after NBC News fired host Matt Lauer for 'inappropriate sexual behavior.'

NBC's "Today" extended its post-Matt Lauer ratings winning streak to four consecutive weeks, but its lead over ABC's "Good Morning America" is slipping.

The Nielsen ratings for the week of Dec. 18-22 showed NBC averaging 4.38 million viewers to ABC's 4.33 million. "CBS This Morning" was third with 3.6 million viewers.

"Today" has finished first in the ratings each week since the sudden departure of co-anchor Lauer, who was fired by NBC on Nov. 28 for sexual misconduct with a female network employee.

In the first full week without Lauer, "Today" led "Good Morning America" by 200,000 viewers. Last week, that lead was down to 52,000.

While "Today" has consistently been the most-watched show among viewers in the 25-to-54 age group important to advertisers in recent years, it seldom tops "Good Morning America" in overall audience. The NBC program's current streak of wins is its longest since August 2016.

Lauer had been "Today" co-anchor since 1997 and was the best known personality at NBC News over the last 10 years. He was long considered critical to the success of the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. hours of "Today," which generates around $500 million in annual ad revenue for NBCUniversal.

His last few contracts paid him in excess of $20 million a year.

NBC News executives have been encouraged that viewers are still watching as "Today" fan favorite Hoda Kotb has taken Lauer's place alongside co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. She could become the permanent replacement. With the recent spike in audience starting to subside, it may take a few months to see the true impact of Lauer's departure.

December ratings for "Today" have been helped by NBC's high-rated telecasts of NFL broadcasts on Sunday and Thursday nights, which boost viewership the following mornings. NBC also gets a seasonal lift from people who tune in to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center outside "Today's" street level studio.

"Today" is also expected to get a ratings lift in February, when it broadcasts from Pyongchang, South Korea, as part of NBC's coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

NBC executives not authorized to discuss the matter publicly have told the Los Angeles Times that recent audience research on the morning programs showed a growing number of viewers had a negative view of Lauer even before the scandal abruptly ended his career. Ratings for "Today" in the month ahead will signal whether they really miss him or not.

Stephen Battaglio is a Tribune News Service writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me