BA on Assignment

July 10, 2012


But First, This is Today on NBC…

Not anymore. The Today Show’s lock on morning ratings has ended. They’ve lost their power and they did it to themselves. Let me start with the point at which the cracks started showing… Katie Couric sitting in for Robin Roberts on Good Morning America.

Back in April when Katie spent a week back in the morning anchor chair, she did it at her new network, ABC. I would venture a guess that a large proportion of the viewers who watched her on Today changed the channel to watch her on GMA. I know I did.

AND, it was fantastic! It’s just a format that she fits in perfectly, so, wherever she takes it, it works. She’d be crazy to go back to it long-term, but, it works. Robin keeps it going – Katie gave it a jolt. Perfect. This was the beginning of the end for Today, however…

It has been said that failure is not insurmountable, it’s how you hand it that counts. NBC has not handled Today’s failure well. Their answer to why Today has slipped in the ratings: Ann Curry.

Now to be fair, NBC’s official statement was that it wasn’t Ann, it was a combination of factors which has prompted them to re-tool the show. So they re-tooled the show by getting rid of Ann. At least that’s all we’ve seen…

When Ann Curry was moved into the co-host chair, it was a brilliant visual for viewers. It suggested that if you work hard, stay loyal and wait your turn, you will be rewarded. Most workers don’t feel appreciated or valued, so, to see the network commit to Ann for her years of waiting doubled their victory. And likewise, taking that away from her so publicly tripled their defeat. It turned them into THE MAN – An unfeeling corporate machine who’s only interest is in money and position, not people and loyalty.

I’ve also read some accounts that site Ann Curry saying, the writing was bad, the guests they booked didn’t always make for the best interviews and the show line ups weren’t so well thought out. This makes sense to me – I’ve been complaining for years that the writing on NBC Nightly News is horrendous. This jives with my thought that NBC News doesn’t think good writing it important for any show.

Fact is, it was/is the whole show. Today has been such a force in morning television and such a cash machine for NBC News that they took it for granted. They stopped trying and just let the show go on auto pilot. And they’ve made some bad decisions…

I’ve said in previous posts that decisions like having Jenna Bush Hager on Today as a correspondent is an insult to all of us who’ve spent years growing as working journalists in the field and don’t get offers to be on The Today Show. AND, they need to re-think the random contributors. Most of those segments seem to have no purpose other than advertising for some product – a no-no in journalism anyway.

Then there’s the silliness. The fourth hour of Today is plain silliness. But, viewers love it. Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford seem to have captured some magic of which Today should make good use.

That leaves the third hour of Today, which, I have no idea the point.

So, since the fourth hour is working, the first two hours are in recovery and the third hour is… whatever it is, here is my recommendation:

While the rumors swirled about Ann being replaced, Hoda Kotb was thrown about as an option. Thereafter, Hoda’s replacement was being considered and who’s name came up? REGIS PHILBIN! In fact, Regis has sat in for Hoda a few times and the viewing experience was just as good – maybe better considering the history.

Today should combine hours 3 and 4 into a single show, like the first 2 hours and the cast for the show should be Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford and REGIS PHILBIN! He’s been in TV for decades and has always been able to deliver ratings. What kind of ratings do you think that would get? Through the roof…

Another Fact: The flap with Ann Curry will hang over the first 2 hours of Today until the next cast change. NBC News should take the focus off that show with the next 2 hours of Today hosted by Kotb, Gifford and Philbin. That gives them time to make some proper decisions about how to re-energize the original show while bringing in new viewer who like Regis.

And I can’t forget to give credit to GMA for stepping up their game and putting together quality shows. They do provide more quality in the two hours they maintain than Today manages in four and now, the viewers are beginning to realize it.

Most Today viewers watch Today because they’ve always watched Today. This spotlight on Today’s quality has prompted some of those viewers to change the channel and they like what they see on ABC better because it is better. GMA is just more fun and a better use of two hours.

So, let’s see what happens. I stopped watching The Today Show years ago, but now, many of my friends have stopped watching Today for GMA and like it better. It’s time for NBC News to wake up, open their eyes and smell the coffee…. GMA is serving Breakfast…