'GMA' Makes Morning Show Ratings Competitive

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There is a big shift going on in morning television. For the first time in 16 years, NBC's Today Show is not the undisputed ratings powerhouse. TV Critic Eric Deggans says ABC's Good Morning America is doing something that seemed unthinkable for more than a decade: it is rocking Today off its pedestal. Deggans is the TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.


You might say there's a tectonic shift going on in morning television. TV critic Eric Deggans says that ABC's "Good Morning America" is doing something that seemed unthinkable for more than a decade: it is rocking NBC'S "Today Show" off its ratings pedestal.

ERIC DEGGANS: Even "Today" show co-host Matt Lauer admits it.

MATT LAUER: The show is not where I want it to be right now. The ratings are not where I want them to be right now.

DONNY DEUTSCH: Where do you want to be right now?


LAUER: I want to make it better. I want to make - I want to - I think it could be in a better place.

DEGGANS: Lauer was talking to pal Donny Deutsch on CNN last week. But "The Today Show's" ratings problems first burst into the public eye months ago, with this moment.


KATIE COURIC: Hi everyone. I'm Katie Couric and I'm thrilled to say Good Morning America.

DEGGANS: Katie Couric was the queen of "Today" for 15 years, but now she's at ABC. Her one-week stint in April substituting on "Good Morning America" gave notice to the media world: the morning news crown is now up for grabs. Then "GMA's" regular host Robin Roberts scored the scoop of the year.


ROBIN ROBERTS: Mr. President, are you still opposed to same sex marriage?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I've been going through an evolution on this issue. And I had hesitated on...

DEGGANS: President Obama choosing Roberts to reveal his support of gay marriage boosted her stock at a crucial time, even though it didn't air on "GMA."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is "Good Morning America" with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos.

DEGGANS: The not-so-hidden secret of morning television is that these shows often recycle the same stuff. It's an infotaiment soup of news updates, celebrity gossip and the latest YouTube outrage. So winning this battle often means trusted anchors must tip the loyalty of viewers over the long haul.

At "Good Morning America," that's what Roberts and longtime political hand George Stephanopoulos have done. In fact, "GMA" didn't snap "Today's" 16-year ratings winning streak until the week after Couric's appearance, when Roberts and Stephanopoulos were back together.

There's also a host change blamed for the ratings problems at "Today," the rise of co-anchor Ann Curry.


ANN CURRY: Alicia Quarles, thank you so much this morning.

ALICIA QUARLES: Thank you, Ann,

CURRY: And now here's Matt.

LAUER: All right, Ann. Thanks very much...

DEGGANS: Some say Curry, who still struggles with live interviews and thinking quickly on air, may have cost the show some fans after rising to co-anchor last year.

And don't count out the newly revamped "CBS This Morning."


CHARLIE ROSE: I'm Charlie Rose in Washington.

DEGGANS: It recently celebrated 100 days in its new format, including a new set, a new focus on harder news and new co-anchors.


GAYLE KING: And I'm Gayle King in New York in Studio 57. Mitt Romney...

DEGGANS: The morning news competition will only deepen later this year, as NBC deploys stars such as Ryan Seacrest and Michelle Beadle to help cover the Olympics and everyone jockeys to cover the Democratic and Republican Party conventions.

But expect as much emphasis on those who bring you the news as the news itself. Because in a business where every fraction of a ratings point counts, the bond with anchors may make the difference between victory and coming up seriously short.

MONTAGNE: Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.

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