Megan Basham

Almost half a million fewer women tuned into the big three morning shows this season compared to last. And though that number may not be devastating to ABC, CBS, and NBC just yet, the 10 percent drop off is making networks and their advertisers (a good portion of whom have their revenues tied up in moms’ purse strings) nervous.

What’s the cause for the erosion, The Los Angeles Times, who reported the news last Friday, wanted to know. According to the various experts they spoke to, it’s not the simpering way Ann Curry has with an interview or Diane Sawyer’s self-congratulatory way of avoiding tough questions with left-leaning guests. Rather, one reason fewer women are waking up with Matt and Meredith is…wait for it…the war in Iraq!

"My gut instinct is it may have something to do with Iraq," said former CNN anchor and NBC correspondent Judy Woodruff, "The news is so negative and so depressing day after day that it may well be that everybody — and especially women, who may be able to identify with the mothers and sisters and daughters — it may be that they're reacting in this way. The news is not happy."

It seems worth pointing out to Woodruff that the phrase “If it bleeds it leads” existed long before the Bush administration and that the news, regardless of any progress being made in Iraq, has never been happy.

However, as reporter Matea Gold discovered, programming executives have pinpointed another, much-abused suspect: the weather. “They attribute it in large part to the unseasonably mild winter…noting that temperate weather draws people outside, and away from their television sets,” writes Gold.

Not to parse meteorological points, but plenty of regions have also seen unseasonably cold temperatures this month and that hasn’t kept West-Coast women glued to their sets in anticipation of hearing Ralph Nader, Terry McAuliffe, or Chuck Shumer answer softball questions about their latest soft-brained tomes.

Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for the arm of the Nielsen ratings that tracks blog trends told the Times he believes the Internet can claim credit for siphoning off viewership. “The very issues that typically get covered on the morning shows are robust and alive in the blogosphere," said Blackshaw. "It's safe to say that the Internet is beginning to cannibalize a lot of these conversational topics."

Megan Basham

Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All

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