How Matt Lauer’s Firing Could Impact ‘Today’ Show in the Ratings

Viewership has declined in the last year but NBC morning show still No. 1 in key ratings demographic

The “Today” show suddenly finds itself in a spot unfamiliar to viewers since 1996: with no Matt Lauer anchoring the NBC News morning program. Lauer, who has co-hosted “Today” since Jan. 6, 1997, was fired Wednesday following a “detailed complaint” from a colleague about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”

Where he leaves the long-running program kind of depends on what you value. Year-to-date, “Today” is down double digits among total viewers, with a 10 percent decline in overall audience members, per Nielsen. The drop-off in the key adults 25-54 demo is an even-worse 15 percent.

Those are both worst among morning show movement.

Over on ABC, “Good Morning America” is off 7 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Harder-news program “CBS This Morning” has shed just 2 percent of its total audience, but is experiencing a 10 percent decline in the demo.

What or whom is to blame for all that falloff? Donald Trump.

The reason all these news shows are down this year is because they were up last year, when the 2016 presidential election was all anybody could talk about. The ultimate winner of that race had goosed TV tune-in to levels not seen for years — there was nowhere to go but down in 2017.

The big question is what will a lack of Lauer do to “Today’s” audience — basically the same thing we wondered last week about a Charlie Rose-less “CBS This Morning.” In the near-term, TV ratings for Lauer’s hours may grow out of sheer curiosity. Beyond that, it never helps to lose the person most-associated with your show, though the future will rely heavily on Lauer’s replacement.

In other words, only time will tell.

There is at least one thing working in NBC’s favor. The network has the rights to the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will jump-start “Today’s” ratings for at least a few weeks in February. The show also benefitted from Rio’s Summer Games last year, which added on to 2016’s Trump-bump.

Be sure to bookmark TheWrap to keep an eye on how the morning show wars go without Lauer and Rose. Until then, here’s how the trio of broadcast TV morning shows stack up in 2017 total-viewer averages:
1. “GMA”: 4.315 million
2. “Today”: 4.104 million
3. “CBS This Morning”: 3.539 million

“GMA” has won 47 or the last 48 weeks among total viewers, by the way. The show’s overall audience advantage over “Today” is 4.9 percent; it’s 18 percent above “This Morning.”

Second-place “Today” has a 13.8 percent lead above the CBS bottom-feeder.

And in the demo:
1. “Today”: 1.517 million
2. “GMA”: 1.366 million
3. “CBS This Morning”: 964,000

“Today” has won 100 straight weeks among adults 25-54. The series has a 10 percent advantage over “Good Morning America” and a huge 36.5 percent lead over “CBS This Morning.”

“GMA’s” demo audience is 29.4 percent greater than its CBS competition.