Likewise, the departure of Charlie Rose — who was fired by CBS following a report of sexual harassment and misconduct last month — is not proving to be much a headache for CBS. Last week, “CBS This Morning” averaged 3.7 million viewers, the same number who tuned in for Mr. Rose’s final week as the show’s co-anchor.
Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell have remained as co-anchors, and last week, Mr. Rose’s chair was filled by the host of “Face the Nation,” John Dickerson.
It is not entirely clear whether “Today” will keep up its ratings momentum. The show beat its longtime rival “Good Morning America” — which has been the morning leader in total viewers for the last five years — by more than 200,000 viewers two weeks ago. That gap narrowed to just over 50,000 viewers last week.
Still, the recent numbers for “Today” and “CBS This Morning” could provide some evidence that the shows’ stars, Mr. Lauer and Mr. Rose, were not as important to viewers as they were to the network executives who paid them generously and promoted them assiduously.
Are morning viewers more loyal to a particular program than to a particular on-air personality? Or were Mr. Lauer and Mr. Rose themselves not that vital to the show’s popularity?
Another theory executives may consider: Have viewers been impressed with how “Today” and “CBS This Morning” handled each departure and stayed in as a result? After Ann Curry left “Today” in 2012, the NBC’s shows ratings plunged, after many viewers seemed displeased with how the network handled her departure.
NBC’s other prize anchor, Megyn Kelly, who holds down the 9 a.m. hour of “Today,” has also benefited from the post-Lauer bump. “Megyn Kelly Today,” which in recent weeks has been focused on victims of sexual harassment, has seen its numbers inch up after a slow start. Last week, the hour averaged 2.7 million viewers, its second-best performance since its late September debut.
In her first days at NBC, Ms. Kelly, who was previously a prime time anchor at the Fox News Channel, presented herself more as a traditional good-time morning personality, rather than the issues-oriented host she has lately become.
Unlike the cable news programs, which continue to thrive in a time of political drama, the morning shows and evening newscasts have all seen ratings losses over the last year. Compared with the same week last year, “Today” lost 8 percent of its audience, “Good Morning America” saw a 5 percent drop and “CBS This Morning” lost 2 percent.