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MBPT Spotlight: CBS News Finds Spot To Rise And Shine With ‘Sunday Morning’

CBS News’ most successful show keeps on ticking in primetime, where 60 Minutes has been pulling in sizable audiences for 46 seasons and still has a lot of life in it. This past season, the show averaged 11.9 million viewers, making it one of the most watched programs on television, and although its median-age audience is 62, 60 Minutes still drew almost 2 million 18-49 viewers per week this past season.

The network’s Saturday night telecast of 48 Hours this past season also did well on that lower-viewing night, averaging 5.3 million per telecast, and often winning the night with the biggest audience.

But outside of primetime, CBS has been, for several years, stuck in third place among the Big Three broadcast networks that battle for news supremacy.

Although the network has produced some viewership gains in both its morning show and evening news telecasts this past season, CBS still ended up finishing third behind NBC and ABC in those two dayparts. Yet, there is one CBS News show outside of primetime that’s a standout vs. the other networks—CBS Sunday Morning With Charles Osgood.

The 90-minute news show which airs on Sunday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. this past broadcast TV season averaged 5.9 million viewers, making it by far the most watched Sunday morning broadcast news show. And that figure was higher than what any of the three weekday morning news shows averaged, including ABC’s Good Morning America (5.8 million), NBC’s Today (5.1 million) and CBS This Morning (3 million).

Breaking it down by demo, the show averaged more 18-34 viewers (275,000), more 18-49 viewers (1.1 million) and more viewers in the 25-54 “news demo” (1.8 million) than any of its competitors in the Sunday morning daypart. Its total viewer and demo numbers were its best audience delivery since the advent of the Nielsen People Meters in 1987.

Longtime CBS newsman Osgood, who’s now 81, has anchored the show since 1994, when he took over for Charles Kuralt. The show won a Daytime Emmy in 2013 for the best morning show, beating out both GMA and Today.

The show covers assorted topics such as music and the arts, but also takes deep looks at the major news stories of the week and also features interviews with major newsmakers and interesting people. One recent broadcast included CBS News national security correspondent David Martin interviewing Watergate scandal reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Jane Pauley talking with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Lee Cowen interviewing actress Jane Lynch; correspondent Serena Altschul taking a look at men who consider dressing well as a lifestyle; and Dr. Jonathan LaPook interviewing restaurateur and former model B. Smith, who recently revealed she is battling Alzheimer’s.

With a median-age viewer of 61, CBS Sunday Morning has a younger audience than the three broadcast network evening news telecasts, and has the same median-age viewer as CBS This Morning, the network’s weekday morning news show. But it is older than Today, which has a median age of 56 and GMA, whose median age is 58.

CBS also had success this season with its 10:30 a.m. Sunday public affairs show Face the Nation, which averaged 3.3 million viewers, including 928,000 adults 25-54. That edged out both ABC’s Sunday series This Week and NBC’s Meet the Press.This Week this past season averaged 2.96 million viewers and 864,000 adults 25-54, while Meet the Press averaged 2.85 million viewers and 821,000 adults 25-54.

The 18-49 demo viewership was even closer, with Meet the Press averaging 620,000, This Week averaging 606,000 and Face the Nation averaging 602,000.

Face the Nation is hosted by another veteran CBS newsman, Bob Schieffer, 77, who spent 17 months is 2004-05 anchoring the CBS Evening News, taking over for Dan Rather before Katie Couric succeeded him. This Week is hosted by George Stephanopoulos, 53, while Meet the Press is hosted by David Gregory, 43.

Given Osgood’s place as the ratings king on Sunday mornings, the age of the hosts of these news shows doesn’t seem to be impacting who watches them. CBS Sunday Morning does have lots of 55-plus and 65-plus viewers—3.9 million and 2.2 million, respectively—but that’s also because the show has more viewers overall. The show also has more viewers under 55 than any of the other Sunday morning news programs.

And because the CBS Sunday Morning format is different than Face the Nation, Meet the Press and ThisWeek, most of the daypart competition stories focus on the latter three and ignore the daypart leader.

But from a marketer standpoint, being able to reach an audience of 1.1 million 18-49 adults during a Sunday morning hour, while buying ads based on 25-54 guarantees is a nice proposition. And despite all the press Face the Nation gets in its battle with Meet the Press and This Week, it’s really CBS SundayMorning that’s the star player on Sunday mornings.