NEW YORK The 16-year ratings dominance of NBCs Today show, one of televisions most epic streaks, has apparently ended.
The Nielsen Co. said Monday that ABCs Good Morning America beat NBCs morning show last week by a razor-thin margin of 13,000 viewers and ABC owes Tim Tebow a hearty thank you.
The Today show had won 852 consecutive weeks in the ratings, a streak that began in December 1995 when Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric were the chief anchors.
The streak was a huge point of pride at NBC as the rest of the network declined. Morning shows are also an important revenue source, and a changing of the guard could have significant financial repercussions.
The Today show earned an estimated $484 million in revenue in 2011, according to Kantar Media, more than GMA ($298 million) and CBS morning show ($156 million) combined.
NBC this month signed Today co-host Matt Lauer to a contract extension that reportedly makes him the highest-paid on-air talent in television news. Lauer, however, was on vacation last week. David Gregory and Carl Quintanilla subbed for him
Good Morning America averaged 5.147 million viewers for the week, to the Today shows 5.134 million, Nielsen said in its fast national estimate. ABC was cautious in its response because the final ratings arent due until Thursday and, occasionally, the numbers shift as Nielsen looks for conflicts in local markets.
Co-host George Stephanopoulos tweeted some celebratory remarks, however.
On Twitter, he thanked GMA viewers for giving us a week well never forget, adding, What a milestone!
Today actually won in the ratings three of the five mornings last week. But Good Morning America won on Wednesday, when bounced Dancing With the Stars contestant Sherri Shepherd was featured, and on Friday, when co-host Robin Roberts traveled to Jacksonville to interview football star Tebow and his mother.
GMA beat Today by 330,000 viewers on Friday, Nielsen said. The week before, Today won on Friday by a margin of 15,000 viewers, a swing that made the difference between winning and losing for the week.
Todays 852-week winning streak had taken on a life of its own and as odd as it is to see it end, we should acknowledge just how remarkable it has been, said Jim Bell, executive producer of the NBC morning show.
So as we tip our caps to the team at Good Morning America, we can take also take a bow ourselves and recognize the work done by countless staffers for so long. It is not an overstatement to call it one of the most incredible achievements in television history, one that is not likely to ever happen again.
NBC noted that Today still won by 254,000 viewers among 25- to 54-year-olds, the group that its ad sales are based upon. In that demographic, the Today show has won for 884 consecutive weeks.
ABC News President Ben Sherwood, a former executive producer at Good Morning America in the early 2000s, has made winning in the morning a top priority.
It has emphasized a lighter, breezier broadcast, particularly in its second hour, with the team of Stephanopoulos, Roberts, Sam Champion, Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer.