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MBPT Spotlight: ‘GMA’ Leads the Morning Show Race But It’s Closer Than You Think

It’s been well documented that ABC’s Good Morning America over the past two seasons has taken over broadcast’s morning show viewership lead from NBC’s Today show. Since the end of the 2010-11 season, GMA has added 1 million daily viewers, while Today has lost 400,000. Quite a turnaround. Topping it all off, GMA also recently won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding morning show, beating out Today in the category.

At the end of the 2013-14 regular broadcast season, GMA was averaging 5.76 million viewers each morning, compared to 5.11 million viewers for Today, according to Nielsen data. But what has gotten very little coverage in the media about the morning rivalry is that most of the GMA viewership increase over the past two seasons has been a result of more 55-plus viewers watching, and even more 65-plus viewers tuning in.

During the 2011-12 season, GMA and Today both averaged 2.7 million 55-plus viewers per show, but for the most recent season, GMA averaged 3.2 million 55-plus viewers, compared to that steady 2.7 million 55-plus viewers for Today. Among viewers 65-plus, GMA also averaged 500,000 more viewers than Today—1.8 million to 1.3 million. That would account for GMA’s median age audience averaging two years older than Today’s—58-56.

GMA has picked up 200,000 more viewers in the 25-54 “news demo” since the end of the 2011-12 season, but its lead over Today at the end of this past season in that demo was only by 100,000 viewers per day—2.2 million to 2.1 million. And Today held slight leads in viewers over GMA this past broadcast season in the two younger demos—18-34 and 18-49.

Those numbers indicate that, despite all the fanfare surrounding GMA’s sizable viewership gain and its overtaking Today, its big viewer lead is primarily in the older demos that are not necessarily helping GMA capitalize much on the viewer turnaround with ad dollars.

In the 25-54 demo, during the recently completed 2013-14 season, GMA gained 300,000 more viewers compared to its 2012-2013 figuring, averaging 2.2 million viewers; meanwhile, Today picked up 200,000 new viewers and averaged 2.1 million, meaning the two shows were in a virtual lock, on average, last season in the preferred news demo. In the 18-49 demo, Today averaged 1.68 million viewers during 2013-14, while GMA averaged 1.55 million. Today was up about 13,000 viewers while GMA was up 9,000 over the 2012-13 season. And in the 18-34 demo, during the 2013-14 season, Today averaged 574,000 viewers while GMA averaged 421,000.

Pointing out those numbers is not meant to denigrate the sizable viewer gains GMA has made over the past few seasons. But the numbers do show that while Today has taken a viewership hit, and has had to endure lots of negative publicity both because of its viewer declines and on-air host turmoil, the show is still extremely competitive in the fight for ad dollars, and has not been dwarfed as much by GMA in the money demo.

Weekend Heat

Both Today and GMA, of course, also have Saturday and Sunday editions. GMA holds a viewer advantage on Saturday, but Sunday is a virtual dead heat in terms of total viewers and myriad demos.

During the 2013-14 season, GMA on Saturday, which airs from 8-9 a.m., averaged 4.3 million viewers, compared to Today, airing from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., which averaged 3.5 million viewers. On Saturdays, GMA averaged 242,000 18-34 viewers, 995,000 18-49 viewers and 1.5 million 25-54 viewers. Today averaged 249,000 18-34 viewers, 893,000 18-49 viewers and 1.2 million 25-54 viewers.

On Sundays, GMA, which airs from 8-9 a.m., averaged 3.7 million viewers, with 196,000 in the 18-34 demo, 822,00 in 18-49 and 1.2 million 25-54. Today, which also airs from 8-9 a.m., averaged a similar 3.7 million viewers, with 250,000 18-34 viewers, 847,000 18-49 viewers and that same 1.2 million 25-54 viewers averaged by GMA.

Today’s 9 a.m. weekday edition also brings in a respectable audience for NBC, having averaged 3.6 million viewers during the 2013-14 season, with 1.2 million viewers 25-54, 968,00 viewers 18-49 and 370,000 viewers 18-34. But it also averages a hefty 2.2 million viewers 55-plus and 1.4 million viewers 65-plus.

Today’s 10 a.m. weekday edition, hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, falls off from the previous hour quite a bit. Its overall viewership during the 2013-14 season averaged 2.3 million viewers with only 856,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo, 683,000 viewers 18-49 and 248,000 viewers 18-34. It also averaged 1.4 million viewers 55-plus with 824,000 of them 65-plus.

While GMA has been growing its audience, ABC’s late morning show, The View, has been losing viewers. This season through May, the show averaged 3.1 million viewers, including 705,000 viewers 18-49 and 940,000 25-54. That’s down from the 3.7 million it averaged during the 2010-11 season and the 3.5 million it averaged during the 2011-12 season. The View is down about 300,000 viewers 18-49 since the 2010-11 season and down about 350,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo since then. Meanwhile, the median age of The View’s audience is 62.

Two cohosts of The View, Jenny McCarthy and Sherri Shepherd, will not be back for the 2014-15 season which begins in September. And the show’s cocreator and host Barbara Walters also left the show in May. The show clearly needs an infusion of talent that can revitalize it and draw in more viewers and that’s what the network will be concentrating on for the remainder of the summer in terms of the morning shows.