Nielsen ratings for September confirm the television sea change that started in the spring and swept through in the summer. In September, GMA beat Today by 807,000 total viewers on a typical day. GMA averaged almost 5.1 million viewers, while Today averaged about 4.3 million. The viewership for Today hasn’t eroded this much since 1995, the year that it recaptured the No. 1 title from GMA, reported The NY Times.
Officials at NBC and ABC attribute the reversal of fortune to any number of factors, including the friendliness of the GMA cast; the lighter content on GMA; the friction behind the scenes at Today; and the poor prime-time performance of the NBC network. But the biggest factor seems to be NBC’s dismissal of Ann Curry in June. The morning after Curry tearfully departed Today, there was a huge spike in viewership for GMA.; aside from a short period of time during the Summer Olympics, Today hasn’t won a week since. Curry was replaced by Savannah Guthrie, who has now been on the job for three months, the Times noted.
The wide gap between GMA and Today is all the more notable because September was GMA’s first month without Robin Roberts, the co-host who is on medical leave for treatment of M.D.S., a rare blood and bone marrow disorder. When Roberts left the show on 8/30, there was widespread anxiety at ABC about how GMA”would fare without her. But it appears that her fans have mostly stuck with the show while she recuperates from a bone marrow transplant.
Roberts is expected to be away from the show for several more months. In the meantime, the cast of GMA mentions her whereabouts every half hour and gives viewers regular updates on her recovery.
On Wednesday Roberts posted a picture to Twitter of a visit by two of her co-hosts, Josh Elliott and Sam Champion, and that picture was shown repeatedly on Thursday’s show. In a blog post later on Thursday, Roberts wrote, “I have been in the hospital 25 days now. My bone marrow transplant took place exactly two weeks ago. The only numbers that matter are my blood counts and they are… GREAT!”