ABC's "Good Morning America" has come within spitting distance of toppling NBC's "Today" in terms of viewership for the first time in more than 16 years. But it's not clear whether the Disney network can sustain the effort or advertisers will alter their plans because of it.
Early data from Nielsen suggest that "GMA" trumped "Today" in total viewers for the week of April 9 by the thinnest of margins, ABC said Monday. The network's analysis of the early data -- which does not represent official tallies -- "Good Morning America" drew 5.15 million total viewers for the week, beating "Today's" 5.13 million viewers by just 13,000 tune-ins.
The rise of "GMA" is of deep concern to NBC. Once dominant in so many dayparts -- morning news, prime time and late night -- the Comcast-owned network has seen its position erode as it failed to replenish its leading prime-time programming and cable networks such as Comedy Central and E! made late-night plays. "Today," however, is still a juggernaut that not only brings in big ad dollars but also helps NBC promote its schedule.
Advertisers will likely maintain their current positions. They typically scrutinize viewers between 25 and 54 for news programming, for one thing, and ABC's early announcement made no mention of totals for that specific demographic. Ad dollars are also unlikely to shift unless "Today's" position eroded more substantially than the early read on last week suggests.
"Good Morning America" has been gaining momentum with co-hosts Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos. Last week it also featured a series of appearances by Katie Couric -- the former "Today" co-host who is about to start a daytime show with ABC. But "Today" may still have more power for the long haul. NBC recently announced it has re-upped "Today" host Matt Lauer.