July 13, 2005

‘Today’ poised to win for 500th straight week

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - When the network morning
show ratings come out Thursday, it's all but certain that NBC's
"Today" will win for the 500th straight week over rivals "Good
Morning America" and "The Early Show."

Preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research show the
gap between "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America" last week
was 375,000 viewers, though that could change in the final
numbers. But on two days, the gap was much less, less than
40,000 Wednesday and 22,000 Friday, Nielsen said.

"It's a tribute to everyone who has worked on the show for
the last 10 years," said Phil Griffin, senior vp NBC News and
the executive in charge of the morning show.

Griffin joined the "Today" team in the spring, amid lower
ratings and reports of turmoil on the set. Things have calmed
down considerably, and after a tough May -- during the week of
May 9, the gap closed to 40,000 viewers -- two weeks ago, the
gap between the two was 530,000 viewers.

"We feel good about things in general, the show's
direction, the show's focus, the ratings have been better,"
said Jim Bell, the NBC Sports producer who took over the reins
of "Today" in April.

Bell has tried to give anchors Katie Couric and Matt Lauer
a chance to loosen up and take a moment or two every once in a
while to engage in unscripted banter, which has given the show
a lighter feel. Other recent exclusives haven't hurt either,
including an interview with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on
the revelation of Deep Throat's identity and the celebrated
tussle between Lauer and Tom Cruise a few weeks ago.

But there's still the question of whether "Good Morning
America" is going to continue to get closer and, eventually,
take over the lead. Bell said he isn't too worried about
fluctuations in the ratings, particularly with "Today" on top.

Yet it's undeniable that "Good Morning America," hosted by
Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson and Robin Roberts, has cut into
the once-commanding "Today" lead.

"Everyone at 'GMA' congratulates the 'Today' show on a
remarkable achievement. It's the morning-television equivalent
of the Joe DiMaggio 56-game streak," said Ben Sherwood,
executive producer of "GMA," adding, "We know streaks will be

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter