NEW YORK (AP) — In what could signal a changing of the guard in morning television, NBC's "Today" show has eclipsed ABC's "Good Morning America" in popularity for the first month that did not include the Olympics in four and a half years.
"Today" averaged 4.79 million viewers in December to 4.69 million for "Good Morning America," the Nielsen company said. CBS' resurgent "CBS This Morning" had 3.77 million. (Nielsen counts the current week as January because Sunday is the first of that month).
The last Olympics-free month NBC won was June 2012. But it was on June 28, 2012 that Ann Curry made her tearful exit as co-host, and two decades of dominance for "Today" evaporated instantly.
In the past year, "Today" has been quietly gaining on ABC's struggling show, consistently winning among the 25-to-54-year-old demographic that advertisers crave.
"It's been an extraordinary year, and I couldn't be more proud of our team, both on-air and off," said Noah Oppenheim, NBC News senior vice president and executive in charge of "Today."
One reason for the show's December success can actually be found in the prime-time ratings. A network morning show traditionally gets a boost when its prime-time lineup is strong, and NBC has carried NFL games on Sunday and Thursday nights the past month. "GMA" won on Friday mornings for nine of 10 weeks before NBC began airing Thursday night games; "Today" has since won every Friday in December, Nielsen said.
"GMA" is also strong on mornings after ABC airs "Dancing With the Stars," particularly among the female viewers that dominate both shows' audiences. But the most recent "Dancing With the Stars" season ended in November.
ABC's prime-time lineup has given the morning show next to no help. Its most popular 10 p.m. show last week, "The Great American Baking Show" on Monday, had only 2.9 million viewers, Nielsen said.
NBC has two stunts lined up to try and build a winning streak. With Savannah Guthrie out on maternity leave, Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira will return to co-host one week each in January with Matt Lauer.
No non-football show even reached 10 million viewers last week. Since NBC had two prime-time games, it averaged 9 million viewers for the week, well above second-place CBS' 5.2 million.
ABC had 3.6 million viewers, Fox had 2.2 million, Univision had 1.9 million, Telemundo had 1.28 million, ION television had 1.27 million and the CW had 770,000.
Feasting on college football bowl games, ESPN was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 3.02 million viewers in prime-time. Hallmark had 2.19 million, Fox News Channel had 2.03 million, Freeform had 1.89 million and TBS has 1.64 million.
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.2 million viewers. ABC's "World News Tonight" was second with 8.6 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 7.2 million viewers.
For the week of Dec. 19-25, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: Denver at Kansas City, NBC, 21.41 million; NFL Football: N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia, NBC, 17.95 million; "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Game," NBC, 16.62 million; "Thursday Night Post-Game," NFL Network, 15.9 million; "Football Night in America, Part 3," NBC, 13.26 million; NFL Football: Carolina vs. Washington, ESPN, 11.21 million; "Thursday Night NFL Pregame," NBC, 10.07 million; "NCIS," CBS, 9.76 million; "America's Got Talent" (Monday), NBC, 9.54 million; "Oprah Winfrey Special: Michelle Obama Interview," CBS, 9.47 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.