Historic Low Ratings for NBC's 'Meet the Press' Could Spell End of Gregory as Host

Just when it seemed that NBC's Meet the Press couldn't sink any lower, ratings for the last three months of 2013 for the Sunday morning news/interview show fell to its lowest level since the third quarter of 1992. That development has added to the speculation that liberal David Gregory might be on his way out as host.

From October through December, NBC's program came in third place for total viewers -- behind CBS's Face the Nation and ABC's This Week -- and the numbers among viewers in the important demographic from 25 to 54 years of age collapsed to their lowest level in the program's history.

According to an article by Politico's Dylan Byers, the CBS program “only rates for the first half-hour, which skews the numbers a bit,” but not nearly enough to rescue Meet the Press.

Byers then stated:

The apparent remedy would be to find a new host. Over the [holiday] break, I proposed swapping out Gregory for a more passionate political junkie like Chuck Todd, NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent.

But that's not likely to happen. Gregory renewed his contract as host just this year, and amid recent rumors of a possible anchor change, NBC News senior vice president of communications Ali Zelenko told our colleague Mike Allen that "there are absolutely no plans" to swap out Gregory.

When contacted for a response to the new ratings, NBC News Washington spokesperson Meghan Pianta declined to comment.

In a recent memo to staff, NBC News Washington bureau chief Ken Strickland commended Meet the Press for "showing strength with a streak of memorable, newsmaking interviews and digital efforts" and said that "David and team are poised to set the political agenda every Sunday and make the next political cycle more dynamic than ever."

That's going to be difficult to accomplish since CBS's Face the Nation topped the same quarter with 3,340,000 total viewers and 936,000 in the 25-to-54 demo.

Also, ABC's This Week came in second with a total of 2,916,000 viewers and 806,000 in the critical demographic.

Meanwhile, Meet the Press drew only 2,849,000 in total viewers and 806,000 in the important demo.

While that may not seem to be much of a difference in the three programs, NBC's show has dropped in ratings ever since David Gregory took over in December of 2008.

However, the network has a reason to keep the program going since it's the longest-running television series in American broadcasting history, having debuted on November 6, 1947, and having been hosted by 11 people, starting with Martha Rountree, the only female moderator in the history of the show during what was only the second official “network season” for American television.

And of course, the series was the highest-rated Sunday morning news/talk program under host Tim Russert.

As NewsBusters previously reported, Gregory has often used the weekly show as a platform for promoting his liberal views.

One recent example of this came on December 7, when the host used the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela to lecture American politicians.

Mandela refused to be consumed by hatred and insisted on working toward a common purpose with his political foes,” Gregory stated. “That, it seems to me, is what is missing from this era of argument in Washington."

The liberal host went on to praise the re-election of U.S. president Barack Obama as “an example of how countries can overcome their past.”

Just one week later, Gregory tried to stoke the divisions within the Republican Party by falsely claiming that the budget deal promoted by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was “un-American.”

And most recently, the liberal host appeared to have forgotten for the briefest moment that he was not in public but in the private eye when he interviewed “two top leaders in the medical field from the hospitals mentioned by the president to give us their insights on the future of ObamaCare.”

Of course, this isn't the first time NBC News boss Deborah Tumess has openly contemplated laying off some of her employees.

“Turness has been trying to figure out the future for David Gregory's Meet the Press, with options including bringing in MSNBC's Morning Joe team of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for a Sunday show, or blowing up the entire franchise and trying something completely different,” sources familiar with the situation said, the New York Post reported.

Randy Hall
Randy Hall