How Ratings Reportedly Factored Into ABC News’ Leadership Shakeup

By Mark Mwachiro 

Late last week, Dana Walden, the head of Disney Entertainment Television, announced a reorganization within the news units she oversees that effectively demoted ABC News president Kim Godwin, though Godwin’s responsibilities remain the same. And ratings were reportedly one of the catalysts for the change.

Godwin, who had been reporting directly to Walden, would now be reporting to Debra OConnell, who was named president, news group and networks. In this role, OConnell will oversee ABC News, ABC Owned Television Stations and P&L responsibilities across Disney’s multiplatform linear entertainment networks, including ABC broadcast network, Disney Channels, FX Networks, Freeform and National Geographic Channels.

The responsibilities give OConnell a broad portfolio to look after; however, the most notable change is OConnell’s control of ABC News, which, according to numerous outlets, has endured low morale and uneasy leadership under Godwin, who has been in charge of the news division since 2021.


Godwin, it should be noted, did receive a multi-year contract extension under this reorganization.

An explosive report from The Hollywood Reporter published on Wednesday indicates that Godwin had been “layered” due to business missteps and lower ratings of tentpole broadcasts, including Good Morning America and World News Tonight with David Muir.

The ratings news is notable, especially considering recent up-and-down performances. After all, Good Morning America has been facing attacks from NBC News’ Today in total viewers and CBS Mornings in the prized demo of Adults 25-54.

One recent example was the week of Jan. 22 when a mere 51,0000 total viewers separated GMA and Today. This was the closest Today had gotten to GMA in nearly two years, excluding Thanksgiving week telecasts.

However, since then, GMA has expanded its lead over Today, having its best performance in four weeks with 2.966 million total viewers during the week of Feb. 12.

Then there is the battle to hold on to the No.2 position within A25-54 that GMA is currently engulfed in with CBS Mornings. CBS Mornings for the week of Feb. 12 (the week after CBS had the Super Bowl) shrank the distance between the two shows to just 16,000 viewers within the demo.

GMA used to be a juggernaut show in the mornings, dominating over its competitors in both measured ratings categories. However, it last held the top position in total viewers and the demo during the week of Aug. 7, 2023.

The battle for ratings supremacy in the mornings becomes even more critical when you understand that the positioning helps determine the ad rates each program can charge during their respective broadcasts.

GMA, being a ratings leader, brought in at least $350 million per year in advertising revenue and was ABC News’ primary money maker. Losing its perch at the top means lower ad rates and revenues for the news division, leading to leadership changes like the one ABC News is currently undertaking.

Clarification: A previous version said Godwin’s contract extension was two years, but it’s more accurate to say multi-year.