'Early Show' Ratings Ring an Alarm in Morning Lot


CBS' "The Early Show" isn't proving to be the wake-up call the network had been hoping for.

In Nielsen ratings for the week of April 24-30, released Thursday, the program tied its lowest household viewership numbers since launching in November with new hosts Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson and a new street-front studio that cost more than $30 million.

For the week, "The Early Show" drew 1.9% of the nation's TV households and 8% of those watching TV at the time, a household rating low hit the week of April 3-7. By comparison, NBC's "Today" show drew 5.5% and a 22% share, while ABC's "Good Morning America" drew 4% and a 16% share of the audience.

The figures are a steep drop from a year ago, when "CBS This Morning," as the show was then called, was drawing 2.4% of TV homes. For the week, NBC was flat compared to a year ago, while ABC was up from its previous 3.7%.

NBC offered particularly strong competition toward the end of last week, when co-host Matt Lauer broadcast from Vietnam as he and other journalists accompanied U.S. Sen. John McCain back to the country where he was a prisoner of war for several years.

In terms of total viewers, NBC's "Today" show had an average 6.37 million viewers last week, compared to 4.57 million for ABC's "Good Morning America." "The Early Show" had 2.24 million.

As the show continues to struggle to find an audience, CBS shows no sign of backing away from it or Gumbel; CBS president and chief executive Mel Karmazin recently stated that CBS wasn't planning any changes.

The network also has been doing what it can to get viewers to tune in. Clayson, a country music fan, co-anchored the "Early Show" from Los Angeles on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a tie-in with the Wednesday night Academy of Country Music Awards, which CBS broadcast. During the awards ceremony, Clayson, clad in a chiffon-draped, lemon-chartreuse beaded gown, helped present the award for song of the year.

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