Networks battle for morning supremacy, young viewers

Mitchell Hartman Nov 18, 2014
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Networks battle for morning supremacy, young viewers

Mitchell Hartman Nov 18, 2014
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Just a few months ago, NBC brought in hotshot young programmer Jamie Horowitz from ESPN to help turn around “Today.” Now he’s already out. Meanwhile, the show is struggling to hold on to viewers and regain its No. 1 spot in the morning news ratings, which it lost to ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 2012 after 17 years on top.

The battle for ratings — and for younger viewers — can be seen in the shows’ daily lineups.

“Good Morning America” had rapper Lil Jon on Tuesday, getting host George Stephanopoulos to bust some (awkward but good-natured) moves to “Turn Down for What.”

At rival NBC on Nov. 17, “Today Show” host Matt Lauer had Anglo-Irish boy-band One Direction on stage. Band member Zayn Malik was missing, and Lauer asked: “Is it something more serious than just a minor illness? There have been rumors of substance abuse. What’s going on?”

The band addressed the question, attributing Malik’s absence to a “stomach bug.” But the audience booed and younger viewers slammed Lauer on social media. “Those are the people they need to grow the ‘Today Show’ audience,” says Jim Hill, an entertainment writer and blogger. “And here Matt has managed to drive a whole generation away.”

Brian Steinberg, TV editor at Variety, says ABC has nailed the morning formula.

Good Morning America’ knows who it is,” Steinberg says. “It’s single-minded. It’s an entertainment show with a little news thrown in. ‘Today’ is a little more of a split personality. They want to be a news show but they also want to entertain and have the same kind of fun. And sometimes it’s hard to pivot.”

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