Seeking Ratings Gain, ‘GMA’ Takes Advantage Of Nielsen Loophole

By Merrill Knox 

In the increasingly competitive ratings battle between NBC’s “Today,” the perennial leader of the morning shows, and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which is continually relegated to second place, every little bit counts.

During the week of December 26, ABC re-titled four editions of “Good Morning America” so the ratings — traditionally low during the week between Christmas and New Year’s — would not count toward the weekly and seasonal averages. (Due to the Christmas holiday on December 26, all three morning shows were coded as specials and did not count toward the averages.)

Nielsen allows shows to be re-titled as long as the newly created title is used at least four times during the course of a season. An ABC spokesperson declined to comment on the name change, but noted that the holiday week is usually a low-rated one for all the morning shows.

While re-naming shows is occasionally done to exclude a single broadcast, a holiday, for example, excluding an entire week from the average is uncommon. An NBC spokesperson calls it “unprecedented.”

Earlier this week, the AP’s David Bauder also noted that “GMA” made another major change in 2011 that may have inflated their ratings. “In May,” Bauder writes, “ABC moved up the last of its national ads by about 10 minutes – meaning Nielsen’s average viewership figure cuts out 10 minutes when the audience is at its lowest.”

We’ll have the weekly morning show averages posted shortly.