In their first week, the new "Early Show" team earned eight percent fewer viewers than the veteran team they replaced did in the same week last year, final Nielsen numbers show. But they didn't suffer a mass exodus.
The new team, led by Chris Wragge and Erica Hill, scored 2.82 million viewers in their debut week, which began Jan. 3. The old team, led by Smith and Maggie Rodriguez, scored 3.08 million viewers in the equivaent week last year, Jan. 4-8.
Also read: Dave Price Exits 'Early Show' Early
The numbers don't indicate, however, that viewers made a major departure from "Early" because of the new team — viewers are driven by the news, not just who reads it. ABC and NBC were down as well.
"It's extremely positive news that the new anchor team has maintained both 'The Early Show''s prior four-week average and season-to-date average," a CBS rep said in a statement. "It bodes exceptionally well that 'Early Show' loyalists are staying with the new team, and it certainly reinforces our belief that this team is tremendously appealing and will grow the broadcast."
ABC's "Good Morning America" had 4.54 million viewers last week, and NBC's "Today" had 5.5 million. In the same week last year, "GMA" had 4.6 million viewers, and "Today" had 6.04 million.
All of the shows were consistent in the first week of January with the previous four weeks: "Early" averaged 2.87 million viewers, "GMA" 4.66 million, and "Today" 5.47 million from Dec. 6-31.
The best news last week was for ABC's "GMA," which improved its advantage over the last-place “Early Show” by 13 percent in total viewers and narrowed the lead of NBC's top-ranked "Today" over the same week last year.
The network replaced the old "Early" team with Saturday "Early" anchors, Wragge and Hill, in its bid to catch up to "GMA" and "Today."
TheWrap reported earlier this week that preliminary numbers showed the "Early" ratings were flat from the first week of last year to the first week of this year. But those preliminary numbers averaged affiliate ratings in the "Early" time slot. In some cases, CBS affiliates showed something other than "Early" in that time.