CBS staffers had reason to pop open champagne Thursday. The network's perennial doormat, This Morning, slipped past ABC's Good Morning America into second place last week behind the morning champ, NBC's Today.
The last time the CBS morning news program climbed out of last place in the ratings was a few weeks in 1983-84 when the show was briefly ahead of Today. CBS hadn't beaten ABC in the morning since January 1977.
"It's a huge deal for us," said Allen Berman, executive producer of This Morning.
It's an even bigger embarrassment for Good Morning America. Troubled by the show's decline, ABC hopes Diane Sawyer, who was on the CBS morning show when it pulled ahead of Today 15 years ago, can work some magic again. The network announced this week that Sawyer and Charles Gibson will replace hosts Lisa McRee and Kevin Newman starting Jan. 18.
"It is the first time in 20 years, and we expect it to be the last," ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said, referring to the third-place finish.
This Morning had a 2.8 rating during New Year's week, compared with ABC's 2.7 rating, Nielsen Media Research said. Today had a 5.1 rating, meaning it almost had as many viewers as the two other morning shows combined.
CBS affiliates were so disgusted with the network's morning ratings three years ago that many wanted to do their own shows between 7 and 9 a.m. As a result, CBS turns over much of the first hour of This Morning to affiliates for local news, a format that's beginning to pay ratings dividends.
"We're doing things right, and we're slowly but steadily improving as a result," Berman said. "The problems at GMA have probably contributed, but I'm convinced we've been making progress regardless."
On a year-to-year basis, morning ratings for CBS and NBC have largely held steady. Good Morning America, however, is down 22 percent this season compared with last.
Written by David Bauder
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