NBC began its Today show Olympics walk-up this morning with a strategically timed piece in The New York Times about a Comcast-wide ad blitz for a new show tagline “Rise to Shine”. It’s part of a big push to get Today back on top in the morning infotainment show ratings. In the article, NBC noted that Today, which lost its ratings crown to ABC’s Good Morning America some time ago, has been chipping away at GMA’s lead, even beating its rival by 18,000 in the news demo the week of December 16 (aka The Week GMA Sent Robin Roberts to the Vatican). The head of NBC News research spoke passionately about Matt Lauer‘s importance to the show’s ratings resuscitation, and Matt himself discussed taking selfies when you think you’re looking good, not when you’re looking bad.
GMA responded this morning with a news release announcing that it won all four quarters of 2013, including its largest fourth-quarter total-viewer lead over Today in more than 22 years, and its biggest demo lead over Today in 19 years (371,000 viewers) during the final full week of the calendar year.
Oh, and Robin Roberts come out on GMA this morning — taking some of the wind out of Today’s carefully orchestrated “Rise to Shine”.
Sure, Roberts had mentioned longtime girlfriend Amber in a Facebook post days earlier. But GMA made it official this morning: “Next to me is my girlfriend Amber,” Roberts said while chatting with the GMA gang about a photo of her attending her niece’s recent wedding.
“No surprise to any of us … but in your end-of-year post, you did tell everyone about Amber and about your relationship, and I hope that was a good experience for you,” said George Stephanopoulos, who was sitting by her side.
“I have never been happier or healthier than I am right now,” responded Roberts, who had announced in June 2012 she has been diagnosed with the blood and bone marrow disease myelodysplastic syndrome. “My year in post was just full of gratitude, and just telling everyone all that I’m grateful for, including my girlfriend Amber, who really loved me through a very difficult year.”
“Hope you, and she, felt all the love coming back,” Stephanopoulos replied.
Over at NBC, meanwhile, the talk was of the “swarm” of ads for Today show, across many Comcast platforms (and, in your mailbox if you’re a Comcast customer) in advance of the show’s Winter Olympics coverage, and its inevitable ratings boost. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke explained that the ad blitz — NBC parent Comcast calls them “symphony promotions” — previously had been used to great effect in promoting The Voice and The Sound of Music. If he also noted a “symphony” campaign could not save Million Second Quiz from epic fail, the NYT did not include that in its write-up.
Today enjoyed a ratings surge with the previous London Summer Olympics in 2012, scoring some of its best numbers in more than a year. The program crawled back ahead of GMA — which, NYT noted back then, might very well be a sign of things to come. Not so much, it turned out. But all the Today talk leading up to the Sochi Olympics had been about replacing Ann Curry on the show in time for those Games. This time, it’s about rising and shining.
Here’s Roberts on GMA this morning: