NEW YORK — Sarah Palin is largely responsible for the "Today" show repelling the Katie Couric challenge.
The Nielsen ratings company said Monday that NBC's morning show beat ABC's "Good Morning America" by a margin of 210,000 viewers in the ratings last week. That's one week after the gap between the two shows shrank to 119,000, the smallest in seven years.
The rise of "Good Morning America" this spring has threatened one of television's longest-running streaks: "Today" has not lost a week in the ratings since December 1995. That's a major point of pride at NBC and important financially, since millions of dollars in advertising could be at stake if there's a changing of the guard in the morning.
Smelling a victory, ABC brought former "Today" anchor Couric in as a guest host last week for vacationing Robin Roberts. "Today" countered by bringing in Palin, a former Alaska governor and U.S. vice presidential candidate, as a guest host on Tuesday, and it had host Matt Lauer announce on Friday that he was signing a new contract.
Palin holds a grudge against Couric for an interview that didn't go well during the 2008 presidential race and, by one measure, she achieved some revenge last week.
Two weeks ago, "GMA" had 5.16 million viewers on Tuesday compared to the 5.06 million for "Today," Nielsen said.
But with Palin, the "Today" viewership last Tuesday jumped to 5.5 million. "GMA" that day had 5.14 million viewers.
That increase of 441,000 viewers from one Tuesday to the next enabled "Today" to increase its margin of victory for the week and keep the winning streak intact.