Today has extended its winning streak in ratings for the fourth consecutive week following Lauer's swift termination by the network, but its lead ahead of ABC's Good Morning America is shrinking.
The Nielsen ratings for the week of December 18 revealed NBC's average viewership at 4.38 million compared to ABC's 4.33 million. Following tradition, CBS This Morning grabbed the third spot with 3.6 million viewers.
Lauer was fired from NBC News on November 28 after an employee accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace one day prior. In the first week following his ousting, Today led the morning ratings game by 200,000 average viewers as curious onlookers tuned in. Looking at last week's numbers, that lead has slipped to 52,000 viewers.
Today historically tops viewership in the coveted 25-54 age group, which is more desirable to advertisers, but it rarely beats GMA in overall audience ratings. Its current winning streak is the longest run since August 2016.
NBC News executives have been encouraged that viewers have continued (or begun) watching Today as fan-favorite Hoda Kotb has taken Lauer's place alongside veteran cohost Savannah Guthrie. The network has remained tight-lipped about who may serve as Lauer's permanent replacement, but sources have claimed Kotb, Craig Melvin, Willie Geist and Carson Daly may be in the running for the position.
Though the recent spike in viewership would suggest Lauer's departure was a win for the network's numbers, it may take a few months to see the true impact of his firing on longterm viewership.
December ratings for Today have been helped by the coverage of their former cohost's exit, but it has also been boosted by NBC's high-rated telecasts of NFL games on Sunday and Thursday nights as people tune in for the following morning's sports coverage. It also receives a seasonal lift from special programming like the Christmas tree lighting from Rockefeller Center.0comments
Today will also see a ratings spike in February when it broadcasts coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Recent research may also suggest that Today's ratings spike may be here to stay. Reports show that many women viewed Lauer as "the weakest host" and preferred his female cohosts, prompting speculation that a Lauer-less Today show is what women viewers may have wanted all along.