‘Today’ Goes Viral: How the Morning Show Is Finding Younger Viewers by Embracing TikTok

“What delights us is that young people are watching our show because they found us first on TikTok,” host Jenna Bush Hager tells TheWrap

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager The Today Show
NBC

The “Today” Show has been around for 72 years, but a deep legacy isn’t stopping the brand from modernizing and tapping into audiences outside of the industry-wide declining linear viewership.

“There are folks who will never watch the ‘Today’ Show, and that’s OK because they are going to see it on TikTok, Instagram, or on our digital site,” VP of content strategy for “Today” Ashley Codianni told TheWrap. 

And the “Today” anchors are leaning into the digital shift too. 

“What delights us is that young people are watching our show because they found us first on TikTok,” host Jenna Bush Hager told TheWrap. “I think it’s awesome that people of all ages are into what we are doing.”

Anchor Hoda Kotb added that “The best parts of our show wind up there. It’s like the cliff’s notes and then if you want more we have more.”

“Today” considers itself a megabrand, utilizing its website Today.com, and social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to turn the broadcast format into a “full 24-hour omnichannel experience,” gaining exposure and new fans in the process. 

The brand reached a recent high of 90 million people per month across its linear TV and digital platforms. “Today” digital had its second best year on record in 2023, averaging 50 million monthly unique visitors, growing 4% year-over-year. 

As of 2023, “Today” ranked as the second largest individual publisher among leading lifestyle and entertainment brands. In the fourth quarter of 2023, “Today” saw an average of 56 million unique visitors, ahead of news brands like The Washington Post, ABC News, and the Wall Street Journal. 

The Today brand has also dedicated extensive resources to bolstering its social platforms, catering to younger audiences, and meeting them where they are. 

On TikTok, @todayshow garners 1.6 million followers, with engagement on one video as high as 14.3 million views, with 2.3 million likes. The TikTok account averaged 78 million monthly views in 2023. 

The show also boasts 4.7 million followers on Instagram, often exposing those who will never tune into the linear network show. 2023 marked Today’s best year on record across Instagram and TikTok, with over one billion views per platform. 

Today’s closest competitor on social media is “Good Morning America,” which boasts 3 million followers on TikTok and 3.6 million followers on Instagram. However, “Good Morning America” keeps their content on one account, rather than expanding the viewing potential like “Today.” The benefit of expanding the program’s social media presence to other accounts increases the probability of virality. 

Over 50% of the brand’s social audience is under the age of 45, a testament to the power of meeting younger generations where they frequent. 

As it stands today, the show is anchored from 7-9 a.m. ET by Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin, Al Roker, and Carson Daly. The third hour of the show is anchored by Al Roker, Craig Melvin, Sheinelle Jones, and Dylan Dreyer. Then there is “Today with  Hoda & Jenna,” hosted by Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager. 

Kotb and Bush Hager have embraced social media in full force, with accounts dedicated solely to their hour-long, daily programming and posting regularly to their personal accounts, all of which improve exposure for the brand and their show. 

The duo’s combined TikTok account currently has 463.2k followers on TikTok, up 49% year-over-year, with engagement on one video as high as 50.2 million views and 5 million likes. Their combined Instagram account boasts 1.2 million followers. 

“I think that what delights us is that young people are watching our show because they found us first on TikTok,” Bush Hager told TheWrap in an interview. “I think it’s awesome that people of all ages are into what we are doing.”

Kotb added that “TikTok is fun because the best parts of our show wind up there. It’s like the cliff’s notes and then if you want more we have more.”

“I like the idea of a bite-sized piece of our show and you’re on your way,” Kotb continued. 

Bush Hager noted that it only takes a short amount of time to be moved by something and social media is the perfect home for Today’s content, which can be deeply emotional. 

“I feel like however it comes, and I love that TikTok has become this place for us,” Kotb said. 

Both, however, prefer Instagram for personal use. 

Executive editor and VP of content strategy Ashley Codianni spoke to TheWrap in depth about how Today is capitalizing on digital and social media while maintaining a well-known legacy brand. 

How is Today approaching its social media strategy? 

Starting with social which has had just unparalleled growth focusing on Instagram and TikTok. That’s where we’re reaching our younger audiences. 

I think that the thing that has made us so successful across social is a few things. We’ve cultivated a team that has a deep understanding of the Today brand, but that also has a very deep understanding of these platforms. I think when you combine both of those things together, what you get is the freedom to experiment and the freedom to innovate. And we’ve really harnessed a culture of innovation and experimentation with this social team, which might I add also is a team of some of the most creative Gen Z producers I’ve ever worked with. Most of the team is millennial and Gen Z and we really have cultivated a culture of speaking the language of these platforms. 

We’ve successfully started to treat TikTok like live TV and we’ve done this in a  few ways. One is we take these broadcast exclusive moments. When people want to break news, they come to the Today Show. Traditionally, you would break news and it would live exclusively on broadcast. Now we have these exclusives that come on broadcast and it’s a very different experience because it distributes almost instantaneously to our monthly audience of 90 million. 

You also have stories that we select, produce, and oftentimes isolate from broadcast that we know will resonate with a TikTok audience. Then in the same vein of treating TikTok like live TV, we have all of these super fun, natural moments that happen between our anchors that we capture and isolate in small shareable clips. Ones that really resonate with and allow our younger audiences to understand who our talent is and cultivate that fandom, which I think is really fun. 

How does NBC see social interaction and viral content? Do they value the exposure of the content to the same degree that they would ratings? Is there a possibility that NBC potentially views social as a path forward as linear viewership continues to decline? 

I would say absolutely. I think we celebrate wins on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube in the same way that we celebrate wins on broadcasts. We’re all a singular brand so the beauty of Today is that we’ve really created an ecosystem that is one mega brand. When we have an exclusive interview that’s booked for broadcast, that singular moment becomes a moment across our entire portfolio. It’s not just about broadcast or digital. It’s the fact that we are a singular mega brand that’s able to reach 90 million people every month when you put both digital and broadcast together. So when we talk about wins, we fully celebrate success on every platform because that speaks to the full brand Today. 

All of our anchors and all of our talent have fully embraced TikTok and Instagram as a part of the mediums we publish to. 

What are the metrics of success when you’re looking at a social media post? Is it simply viewership or engagement levels with the post itself? 

There’s total video views but more importantly, there is engagement. When you think about a piece of content and somebody took an action on that content, that means they not only liked that, that means that they liked that content so much that they took an action. And whether that’s a like, a comment, or a share…somebody liked a piece of content so much or resonated with somebody so much that they were inspired to take an action on that content. And I think that’s a very valuable metric.

I think the key is that we’re building so much of a fandom among our younger audiences. More than 50% of our social audience is under the age of 45 and I think for a brand that is 72 years old, that has been this legacy and trusted brand for years, to have that arsenal of young people following our brand is really significant. We’ve spent years building that. We’ve shifted, built, and cultivated through digital, through social and through these strategies, this younger audience that now knows our talent. There are folks who will never watch the Today Show and that’s okay because they are going to see it on TikTok, Instagram, or on our digital site. 

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