Inside the Morning-Show Wars: How NBC’s ‘Today’ Is Gaining on ABC’s 'GMA'

Millions of Americans turn on the tube at around 7:00 AM each weekday morning. Some want to be entertained, some want to be informed, others want a mix. What was once a block dominated by NBC's Today, (the show was #1 among the morning shows for 852 consecutive weeks from December 1995 until April of 2012), the competition between the big broadcast morning shows has intensified in recent years. ABC's Good Morning America, in particular, has made a push to the top. How did this move happen?  Cast changes? Content shift? Did this happen overnight, or was the Today decline / GMA ascent a long time coming? And it's important not to forget CBS This Morning, which garners a significant viewership base of its own. Let's check in with these three heavyweight morning news shows and perhaps the numbers can tell us who is thriving and who might need to re-invent themselves yet again.

Last Week's Numbers: GMA vs. Today vs. CBS This Morning (Live+SD)

The below shows the average ratings from this past week (Mon - Fri). It's important to note that GMA runs from 7 AM - 9AM. CBS This Morning also runs from 7 AM - 9 AM. Today runs from 7 AM - 10 AM.

Last week, the first two-hour block of Today eeked out a victory over GMA and CBS This Morning, averaging 1.51 million viewers in the P 18-49. GMA averaged 1.49 million viewers in its 7-9am telecast while CBS This Morning averaged somewhere in the mid six-figures.The final hour of Today only averaged 831,000 viewers in the key demo.As previously mentioned, Today airs from 7-10am Mon through Fri while GMA and CBS This Morning only air from 7-9am Mon through Fri.

The story was a bit different in P 25-54, the demo ABC and CBS like to consider the "core" morning show demo. NBC, a network was skews younger across most dayparts, may disagree. GMA averaged 2.1 million viewers in the demo, while Today averaged around 1.8 - 1.9 million. The numbers are higher in this demo for CBS This Morning as well. Hour 1 averaged almost 1.1 million viewers in the demo, while hour two grabbed 837,000.

GMA and CBS This Morning really do the most damage in the older demos. GMA averages about 3.1 million 55+ viewers, while Today grabbed around 2.5 million. Interestingly, hour 2 of CBS This Morning averaged more viewers in this demo than hour 1 (1.8 vs. 1.9).

Lastly, GMA continued its lead over Today in average total viewers, grabbing almost 5.5 million P2+. Today's 7-9am block averaged over 4.6 million and, but dropped to 3 million from 9-10am. CBS This Morning sees an even distribution in terms of parts 1 and 2: 3 million vs. 2.8 million P2+.

GMA vs. Today vs. CBS This Morning 2014 to-Date (Month-by-Month)

Below shows how the networks have stacked up against each other this year on a month-by-month basis. One can sort by month, program, or demo impressions.

In 2014, Today  won the 18-49 demo from January - May. GMA took the P 18-49 in June, July and August, but Today has taken back #1 in P 18-49 this month to-date.

GMA has taken P 25-54, 55+ and average total viewers P2+ eight of nine months this year. The exception was February, when Today moved ahead of GMA in P 25-54. This may have happened with help from Winter Olympics coverage.

Looking at P2+ (000) for each program on a monthly basis, GMA saw a decline in average total viewership from January through July. Numbers picked back up in August and September to-date.

The CBS This Morning numbers have been a bit inconsistent. The summer was a bit quieter than the first half of the year, but average total viewership has picked back up the past couple months.

Today saw a significant increase from January to February, then a decrease the up until this month.

 Yearly Averages (2011 - Present)

One can sort by year, program or demo:

CBS This Morning continues to skew older. It has seen its numbers in the P 18-49 demo decline on an annual basis since 2012. The same is the case when it comes to P 25-54. That being said, 55+ and average total viewership (P2+) has increased on an annual basis since 2012.

Good Morning America has seen its P 18-49 ratings / impressions and P 25-54 ratings/impressions increase on an annual basis since 2011. The 55+ viewership decreased from 2011 to 2012, bumped up again in 2013 and has decreased a bit in 2014, but nothing super significant. And as has been well publicized, GMA's average total viewership has increased on an annual basis since 2011.

Today saw numbers decrease in P 18-49 from 2011 to 2013. Numbers have improved again in 2014. Today dominated GMA in this demo, but the gap has narrowed in recent years. In terms of P 25-54, GMA trailed Today in 2011 and 2012, but pulled ahead in 2013 and maintains a slight lead in 2014. Today has seen P 25-54 impressions decrease annually since 2011. Today led GMA in average total viewers (P2+) in 2011, but took over in 2012 and hasn't looked back, despite Today's improvement in 2014.

Day of Week Analysis (2014 to-Date)

Which is the most popular day of the week for each program?

For CBS This Morning, part 1 it's Tuesday. For part 2, it's Monday. For GMA, it's Tuesday. For Today, it's Monday. Fewer viewers tune in during the latter stages of the week than during the former.

Median Age / Gender Skew (2014 to-Date)

Each of the morning shows have a female skew. The 9A - 10A hour of Today has the most extreme skew, while GMA is right behind it. CBS This Morning has a more even viewership when it comes to gender distribution (55%/45%). It's conceivable this may be due to the presence of figures like Charlie Rose and the "newsier" nature of the program, whereas GMA and Today have been described as "infotainment" programs. Secondly, as one might expect, the 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM block of Today has the youngest median age of the morning shows, but not by much. CBS This Morning has the oldest median age.