A Growing Relationship

Twentieth Television hopes to build The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet into the Fox station group's 9 a.m. franchise, much as Disney-ABC's Live With Regis and Kelly takes over mornings once Good Morning America signs off on many stations.

While Twentieth wants the show to emulate Regis and Kelly's ratings performance, the duo are doing a show that's all their own, featuring a lively mix of talk, news and features presented before a live studio audience.

“The slogan of our show is that it's morning talk with late-night attitude,” says Mike Jerrick, who has been hosting shows with Juliet Huddy for the past five years. The two first met hosting Fox & Friends Weekend on the Fox News Channel, and went on to co-anchor FNC's Dayside in the summer of 2005.

“We try to add a ribbon of personality to everything we do,” says Huddy. “We always say we appeal to people who have a sense of humor. If you don't have a sense of humor, you will absolutely hate us.”

Twentieth couldn't have been laughing much after a slow rollout that began last January. The Morning Show launched nationally in September, debuting at a 0.8 live-plus-same-day national household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. The show has grown 25% since then, averaging a 1.0 in the past two weeks.

Hoping for that growth to continue, industry insiders expect Fox's owned stations to renew the show for a second season within the next few weeks.

Even with an improving story to tell after the November sweeps, The Morning Show still has some work to do. It averaged a 1.2 rating/4 share in November. That is down from both its lead-in average of 1.9/6 and its year-ago time period average of 1.6/6.

That said, none of this year's other first-run rookies are having any success improving either of those measures, and The Morning Show has almost no lead-in on which to build in many markets. For example, in Charlotte, N.C., and Hartford, Conn., markets No. 25 and No. 29, respectively, very low-rated paid programming leads into Mike and Juliet.

“The show's been a self-starter in two respects,” says Joanne Burns, Twentieth Television's executive vice president of marketing, research and new media. “The 9 a.m. time period has the highest churn of any hour throughout the day, so shows in that hour really have to bring their own audiences.”

The Morning Show also has serious competition in the top three markets: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In New York, Mike and Juliet are taking on broadcast legend Regis Philbin in his home market on ABC's strong flagship station, WABC. In Los Angeles, the show goes up against ABC's The View (at 10 a.m.) on KABC. And in Chicago, the show takes on Oprah Winfrey on WLS in Oprah's home market, arguably the most daunting competition in daytime.

In smaller cities, The Morning Show is turning good performances on several Fox-owned stations in top-50 markets. The show's biggest number comes on Fox-owned WBRC Birmingham, Ala., the nation's 40th-largest market, at 9 a.m., where it's averaging a 5.5/14, up 25% from last year. On Fox-owned WDAF Kansas City, Mo., market No. 31, the show is averaging a 4.0/13 at 9 a.m., up 14% from last year's time period average. And on Fox-owned WGHP Greensboro, N.C., market No. 46, it's averaging a 4.3/12 at 9 a.m., up 10% from last year.

“We like what we see, and we know we have something here in the talent and the format,” says Burns. “We set out to design a 9 a.m. show of this ilk, replacing the court shows that had been in the slot. We always knew it wasn't going to be a fast turnaround.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.