The decision to have Katie Couric co-anchor “Good Morning America” next week really has little to do with her upcoming ABC talk show. Sure, the network wants to drive some early awareness in advance of the Fall debut, but that was not the main impetus behind putting Couric in the anchor chair next week.
Two sources at ABC–one at ABC News and another at a local affiliate–tell TVNewser that the decision to have Couric fill-in for Robin Roberts was really about one thing: ending NBC’s 800+ week winning streak in the morning.
That is why the network chose to announce the Couric stunt Thursday: it would give enough time to promote her appearance, while also making it difficult for “Today” to fire back with a stunt or “get” of its own. During sweeps NBC brings out the big guns, but not for what was expected to be an otherwise typical week in April.
All of this begs the next logical question: how will NBC respond? One of the more likely scenarios has NBC screwing around with “Today”‘s commercial breaks, as outlined by the New York Times‘ Bill Carter:
Seven years ago, “G.M.A.” did get close enough in one week that the “Today” show manipulated its commercials on a Friday to ensure it would eke out a weekly win. (“Today” played all its national commercials in its higher-rated first hour, meaning its lower-rated second hour didn’t get counted at all in the ratings that morning.)
Another possibility is a big guest booking, though they are challenging to get on a few months notice, let alone a few days.
Viewers should probably expect to see a lot more NBC “Today” promos on the network this weekend, as well as during the week next week. NBC may not have many hit shows (save for “The Voice”) but any little bit helps.
One thing is certain: NBC will not take this lying down. “GMA” is pulling some shenanigans to try and top “Today,” so it only makes sense that NBC will respond in kind.
Update: A tipster reminds us that “CBS This Morning” will have Oprah as a guest on Monday. That puts even more pressure on NBC.