London Olympics Are a Huge Boost to NBC’s ‘Today’ Show

by | August 6, 2012 at 6:26 PM | Good Morning America, TV News

Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer on Today (NBC)


NEW YORK (AP) — NBC’s hopes that the London Olympics would boost the struggling “Today” show have been rewarded and then some.

The once-dominant morning news show beat ABC’s “Good Morning America” by an average of 1.6 million viewers each day last week, the Nielsen ratings company said Monday. That’s the most dominant week for “Today” since the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

It meant some 2 million viewers switched channels in the morning from the previous week, a startling reversal for a time of day when habits are hard to break. “Good Morning America” had won each of the previous five weeks, and its margin of 543,000 viewers over “Today” the week before the Olympics was the ABC show’s largest in 17 years.

NBC has sent its morning show team to London for broadcasts heavy on Olympic content and has reaped the benefits with the Games proving more popular in the United States than most observers expected.

NBC also is using the Olympic telecasts to introduce Savannah Guthrie to viewers. Guthrie took over from Ann Curry a month ago as co-host with Matt Lauer and, until London, viewers had been cold to the change.

Lauer called the Olympics, which have featured big medal hauls for U.S. swimmers Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin and gold for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, “a nice shot in the arm.”

“It’s been a little turbulent as of late,” he said from London. “I think that might be the understatement of the year, but I think on a daily basis we try not to concentrate on that day’s ratings. We try to concentrate on that day’s show. We can do a fantastic show, and if the next day we wake up and the ratings don’t quite correspond, it doesn’t make us feel worse about the show we did. And the opposite is true.”

Lauer said he expected that ratings improvement would come.

“At the moment, we’ve got a brand new team, we’re getting to know each other and we’re not looking at tomorrow, we’re looking down the road,” he said.

On the “Today” set people still joke around about flubbing Guthrie’s name as Stephanie or Susannah, Al Roker said. But Guthrie is a good sport about it, he said.

Guthrie said the London experience has exceeded her expectations.

“It’s been full of energy, full of enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s impossible not to get caught up in the sports that are going on, the athletes’ stories, and it’s a great time for all of us to be together, too.”

Curry’s predecessor, Meredith Vieira, has accompanied the “Today” team to London. Curry is expected on Thursday to make her first reappearance on the show since her tearful departure.

Last Friday, when the guests included Olympic gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas, “Today” had 6.5 million viewers to the 4.1 million people who watched “Good Morning America.” That was the largest single-day margin of victory for “Today” since the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Nielsen said.

“Good Morning America” noted that despite last week’s viewership switchover, its show still had more viewers than it did four years ago during the Beijing Olympics.