Katie Couric and Sarah Palin faceoff in morning TV is all about avoiding an embarrassing headline
As you watch the amazing competition unfold this week on morning network TV news: Katie Couric guest hosting Good Morning America, Sarah Palin guest hosting NBC's Today show and Oprah Winfrey appearing on CBS This Morning, know this:
It's all about avoiding a deeply unpleasant headline.
George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts and the other folks at GMA have been slowly building their team and their audience, to the point where the show's ratings have never been closer to perennial top-rated show, Today. According to the New York Times, the Today show has been at the top of the weekly ratings battle for 16 years.
But with Couric's highly-hyped guest host stint this week -- today's show had her twirling with castmembers from Dancing with the Stars and participating in a pre-taped skit struggling to get out of bed in the morning -- could tip the ratings scales enough to produce a headline like:
GMA Wins Ratings Battle with Today for the First Time Since Clinton Administration
Which helps explain why the Today show pulled out every gimmick this week, from bringing back former host Meredith Vieira this morning to bringing in conservative political star Palin starting Tuesday and having American Idol host Ryan Seacrest stop by, also on Tuesday, to announce a new gig with NBC (probably a job connected to hosting the Olympics).
“I see this as a good opportunity to bring an independent, common-sense conservative perspective to NBC. We’re ‘going rogue’ and infiltrating some turf for a day,” Palin told the website Big Journalism.The former Alaska governor famously fumbled a question of which newspapers she reads during an interview with Couric during the 2008 presidential race, in a major turning point for the campaign.
But this time, Palin gets teleprompters.
Fear not for GMA's Robin Roberts; Couric has a new syndicated show debuting Sept. 10. This is much more about taking a shot at Today and helping keep Couric in the headlines for her big fall debut. If anyone is threatened the most by all of this back-and-forth, it's likely Today co-host Ann Curry, who will inevitably be pushed aside a bit for the star power of an ex-politician whose last anchor gig was doing sports at a local TV station in Alaska.
Given that the network has already hired political kids Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush to front stories, it seems a small step from offering a popular political figure a guest hosting slot. I'm assuming, depending on how November goes, NBC may use offers to Romney or Obama to knock down Matt Lauer's asking price at year's end.