The Morning Show Shuffle

We're exploring audience research this week at Public Eye, and today we reveal the statistics that help dictate which stories make it onto the morning shows, and when.

Ever wonder why the morning shows do more straightforward news early and soft features towards the end of the program? The answer has a lot to do with demographics. Below you'll find the weekday Adult Audience Profile for the three network morning news programs, broken down by half-hour, courtesy of Rob Schlaepfer, CBS vice president of news research and program planning:

Percent of Adult (18+) Audience

Adults 18+ Women 18+ Men 18+ Adults 25-54 Adults 55+
7:00 AM 100% 65% 35% 54% 43%
7:30 AM 100% 66% 34% 49% 48%
8:00 AM 100% 67% 33% 45% 52%
8:30 AM 100% 68% 32% 43% 54%

As you can see, between 7:00 and 7:30 the audience is slightly younger and more male than it is during the rest of the show (though it's still primarily made up of women). That early morning audience is called the "transitional audience." They're the people who might watch 15 minutes of a morning show over breakfast before leaving for the day. What they want, producers believe, is programming geared more towards straight news.

As the morning progresses, the audience becomes slightly older and more female, and the conventional wisdom is that this portion of the audience is more likely to be stay-at-home parents, retired people, or others who don't rush out of the house in the morning. They're thus much more likely than the transitional audience to watch a morning show for a long period of time. That's why, says David Poltrack, CBS executive vice president of research and planning, "the first hour of these shows contains a lot of news and information relevant to someone going out in the world, and the second hour has more of a talk show feel, with a lot of soft features." The first hour is geared more towards the transitional audience, and the second hour includes programming designed for people who are sticking around.

That doesn't mean people who stay at home only want soft features, says Katie Boyle, a senior producer with the CBS "Early Show." She points out that the "Early Show" runs newsblocks on the hour and half-hour, and says that there is a mix of stories so the same topics aren't covered over and over. "In a two hour morning show you want some variety," she says. And the fact that the proportion of women is slightly higher in the second half of the program, she adds, doesn't mean they don't care about hard news. "Women are watching morning television, period, at the beginning and at the end, when there's hard news and soft features," she says. "They want it all."