Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bring "Morning Joe" to CBS; It will Easily Compete Against GMA and "Today"

If you're watching “Good Morning America” or the “Today” show (you can’t be a CBS “Early Show” viewer - no one is), it's time to try something new. 

Those shows have minimal news and politics and way too much emphasis on movies (produced by the networks’ parent companies), interviews with celebs from the same movies, cooking segments and icky human interest/tug-at-the-heartstrings stories about people in the midst of unfathomable tragedy.

I suggest an alternative – “Morning Joe” on MSNBC with Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist.  With their rotating band of intellectual contributors from the worlds of journalism and politics, this program is head and shoulders above the competition.  A friend and colleague recently remarked to me that “Morning Joe” is the best show on television, period.  He may be right.

There have been rumors that CBS is, indeed, trying to woo the group for a move to that network, perhaps for the morning drive period.  That would be wonderful.  More viewers than those available on cable should be exposed to this unique program.

The show features free form dialogue about national and world events directed by Scarborough (a former Congressman) and Brzezinski, but Scarborough mostly dominates.  Willie Geist adds humorous observation and commentary.  Other regulars are the mercurial Mike Barnicle and the amazing, yet conservative, Pat Buchanan who is a walking encyclopedia of American politics in the 20th century.

Tomorrow’s “Morning Joe” lineup, for instance, includes Buchanan, Barnicle, Tina Brown, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, education reformer Geoffrey Canada, Randi Weingarten, CNBC’s Erin Burnett and Charles Best.   

Celebrities like Sara Jessica Parker and Oprah Winfrey have been on as guests and say they are regular viewers.

What's best is that the conversation is for adults, those who can respect and understand both sides of an issue without being insulting or insulted.  It also lacks the conventions of typical talk shows where segments are tightly timed and where the jokes are puns giggled between anchorpersons.  Here, there’s genuine, unscripted humor and sarcasm.

On MSNBC, “Morning Joe” beats CNN and HLN in the morning.   For the first quarter of 2011, it had 449,000 viewers to “American Morning’s” 322,000 and “Morning Express with Robin Meade’s” 316,000, topping “American Morning” for the fifth consecutive quarter.  This quarter marks the best total viewer delivery for “Morning Joe” since the last quarter of 2008, one year after its debut.  Compared to 1Q10, “Morning Joe” is the only cable morning news program with growth in every ratings category this quarter, including a 26% increase among total viewers and 23% growth in the 25 to 54 age group.

That’s great for cable (though it doesn’t beat Fox), but “Morning Joe” could have a far bigger audience and much more influence on broadcast television.   Joe Scarborough told the New York Post's Page Six earlier this month that he and Mika Brzezinski are not considering going to another network, despite rumors that they were looking for a syndication deal and that CBS is interested in them.

I hope that’s not the case, though I will continue to be a regular viewer no matter where they show up.  Next month, the team heads to London to cover the royal wedding for the week leading up to the big event on Friday, April 29th.  With all the serious news in the world, their coverage of the Prince William/Kate Middleton affair should be a nice break and it will have an interesting take compared to what will air on CBS, NBC and ABC.  I’m looking forward to it.

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