Seems the competition is back in morning news shows

For America's television news giants, the morning hours are becoming increasingly competitive in the fight for millions of viewers and billions in advertising dollars. A new President with a propensity for 7 a.m. tweeting has certainly helped drive audiences. 

Fox News' "Fox & Friends" morning show -- which President Trump has mentioned in Tweets 11 times since taking office -- has seen record viewership in recent months, as have cable rivals "New Day" on CNN and "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, benefitting their respective corporate parents 21st Century Fox, Time Warner and Comcast.  Among the Big Three TV networks, "CBS This Morning," which was eclipsed for years in the ratings battles by ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" show, also has been gaining viewers and advertising dollars at the expense of broadcast rivals that are often seen as less news-driven more focused on personalities in the early hours.   

The cable networks, which earned more than $5 billion in ad sales as of 2015, are benefiting from the so-called Trump Bump, as are the broadcast networks which reportedly earn about $1 billion from their morning shows alone annually. CBS (the parent of CBS MoneyWatch) seems to be especially benefiting from its decision five years ago to market "CBS This Morning" as a more serious program than its network rivals with an emphasis on harder news such as national security and business stories.  

As of the week ending April 7, "CBS This Morning" hosted by Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell, saw a 1 percent gain in viewership in the season to date, while Walt Disney-owned ABC slumped 7 percent and NBC fell 6 percent. This continued a trend of the past five years that has seen viewership of "CBS This Morning" surge 42 percent overall and 2 percent in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic targeted by advertisers on television news shows. Both "GMA" and "Today" have seen double-digit declines in both categories.

According to longtime media consultant Brad Adgate, the viewership gains at "CBS This Morning" are "impressive" given that daytime ratings are often seen as less prone to change than they are in prime time and the increased competition the networks are seeing from cable shows such as "Morning Joe" and "New Day."

"At CBS, they offer something that's a little different than 'GMA' and the 'Today' show...which are more personality driven," Adgate said. "The `Today' show focuses on GMA and GMA focuses on the "Today" show.  They have had a pretty competitive rivalry over the past few years.  You think that if CBS (continues) to gain ground and gets more and more on the radar screens of the other networks they may respond to that."

According to a tweet last week from "CBS This Morning" Executive Producer Ryan Kadro, the show attracted 3.83 million total viewers on April 26, trailing "Today's" 3.97 million by a mere 147,000 people -- the closest the shows have been in decades. When CBS began the "CBS This Morning" broadcast five years ago there was a near-3 million viewer gap with NBC, he noted.   

"Good Morning America" still dominates the group with a total audience of 4.47 million, leading "Today" and "CBS This Morning."   "Today", though, leads both shows in the 25-to-54 target demographic, according to Nielsen.

CBS also is gaining ad dollars at a faster pace. According to data from SMI cited by Daily Variety,  ad spending at "CBS Morning News" jumped nearly 15 percent in 2016, to $127 million, although a person familiar with the data told the trade publication that sales may have risen as much as 20 percent. Ad sales at "Today," meanwhile, gained 9.6 percent to $408 million while "Good Morning America" dropped 2.41 percent, according to Variety.

Like most television networks, CBS doesn't break out the financial performance of individual shows.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.