by Emily Smith
April 21, 2014
NBC’s “Meet the Press” has fallen to such ratings lows that network brass ordered psychological research of the host David Gregory and his family, in a bid to make him more likable.
Friends of Gregory and even his wife were interviewed by a psychologist commissioned by NBC to find out how the host of the flagship Sunday morning show might relate to audiences better.
The Washington Post reported, “Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife.
“The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was ‘to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.’ But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years.”
The days of “Meet the Press” ruling Sunday mornings seem a long time ago — now it is in third place. During the first three months of this year, the NBC program finished behind rivals “Face the Nation” on CBS and “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” on ABC. In the final quarter of last year, viewing of “MTP” among people ages 25 to 54, the preferred group for TV news advertisers, fell to its lowest level ever.
“I get it,” Gregory told the Washington Post, “Do I want to be number one in the ratings? Every week I want to be number one, and we fight like hell to get there. And it’s tough right now. It’s a fight.”
He adds, “I’m not just trying to sell you — well, I am trying to sell you — but I’m not going to B.S. you, either. Yeah, it’s hard. I see what our challenges are. But we’re going to fix our problems.”
Meanwhile, sources told Page Six that NBC had commissioned audience tests of other replacement hosts, including NBC political director and chief White House corespondent Chuck Todd, who we are told scored even less favorably than Gregory.
But, as the Washington Post points out, the impossible burden for Gregory has been to follow the beloved Tim Russert. It reported, “As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a ‘ghost’ who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at ‘MTP’ six years into his run.”
“I am fully aware that there are a lot of people who believe Tim Russert will never be replaced, and I’ve never tried to replace Tim Russert,” Gregory said. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for Tim and his legacy. And I’m doing my own thing, just like Tim did.”
An NBC spokesperson told Page Six, “Last year ‘Meet the Press’ brought in a brand consultant — not, as reported, a psychological one — to better understand how its anchor connects, and they all have their own methods for doing that. This is certainly not unusual for any television program, especially one that’s based on one person. It is absolutely false that any audience research has been done on an alternative host.”