November 19, 2001

Before And After

The Quasi-Informercial

Within this culture of using the morning shows to sell, there are distinct differences between the different programs.

Good Morning America

Even though it tended more toward hard news, especially after September 11, and has benefited most from ratings gains, ABC's Good Morning America still devotes a similar amount of time as its competitors to basically selling viewers something.

In June, GMA spent 24 minutes of each program on average selling. By October, that number had fallen slightly—to 22 minutes.

During the 10 days studied in June, the selling on GMA broke down this way: The show aired 35 product stories, promoted sponsors 21 times during news segments, and used time in the newscast (outside commercial breaks) to mention or promote the network, its website or upcoming stories 249 times.

In October, GMA remade itself in some subtle and in some other not so subtle ways.

It aired roughly the same number of product stories but the type of products shifted substantially. Music, TV, sports and Internet stories dropped by more than half (from 20 to eight). But GMA in October aired twice as many segments promoting movies—those interviews with the stars—after September 11, which is notable, in part, because it generally trails the competition in the amount of celebrity segments and stories.

Time spent using the newscast to promote upcoming segments in the show, ABC's website or other ABC programs decreased from the June period to October by 60%—to now just 6 minutes per show.

Almost all of this decline, however, is attributable to the fact that GMA did not air any multi-day special features in October, such as a wedding series it aired in June, that were effectively a daily promotion for the show, and a segment that was in itself a tease to keep people watching.

The Today Show8

The Today Show is the ratings leader in the morning, the most apt to air celebrities (as the No. 1 show also the most likely to command the most popular celebrities). It also may be the show that has fared least well on this story in terms of ratings.

The show has changed noticeably since September 11, even in the level of selling that it does.

In June The Today Show devoted the greatest number of minutes of the three morning shows to selling products.

By October, that had fallen measurably.

In the ten days studied in June, The Today Show aired 49 product stories, mentioned or showed the logo of sponsors 18 times inside the newscast, and it aired 306 network promotions, website promotions or teases of upcoming stories inside the newscast (as opposed to during commercial breaks).

Together, these product stories, sponsor mentions, promotions and teases averaged 31 minutes per program, some 35% of its non-commercial time.

By late October, the amount of selling on The Today Show had dropped by 10 minutes per program, and made up 24% of the non-commercial time. It now was roughly even with GMA in terms of the amount of time peddling stuff.

The number of product stories dropped by 25%, from 49 product stories in the June period to 37 in October.

The number of music and movie segments, for instance, dropped by almost half, from 18 to 10. The number of segments about consumer or business products fell from 10 to 5.

And the products it did carry were more oriented to current events. One consumer product segment, for instance, was with an executive from Jet Blue Airlines, talking about how the company was reinforcing its cockpit doors.

The number of times that sponsors were mentioned inside the newscast (as opposed to during commercials) also decreased, from 18 mentions in June to eight in October. This, too, was mainly because it had aired one of those wedding series in June, in which a couple is seen preparing for their wedding all week, to be married on the air on Friday.

Still, even in the period after September 11, the number of minutes devoted to selling still averaged 21 minutes per show, down significantly but still a considerable amount.

The Early Show

The CBS Early Show was the program that changed the least, when it came to promotion and selling product, after September 11.

In June, the show had the greatest number of product references but spent the least amount of time on those products.

In October, by changing little, it stood out for spending the most amount of its newscast selling something.

During the June period, The Early Show aired 42 product stories, mentioned sponsors inside the newscast 40 times, and aired 293 self- promotions, amounting to 22 minutes per program devoted to selling.

By October, the number of product references had fallen slightly but the time devoted to selling remained the same.

One reason for this is that over the ten days studied, it carried 11 separate segments promoting CBS network shows, six of then about "Survivor: Africa."

8 For the purposes of comparison, the study excluded the third hour of The Today Show airing in some markets, and examined the same 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. hours as it did for the other network morning shows.