Behind 'CBS Sunday Morning's' Two-Decade Ratings Highs

10:00 AM PST 06/14/2013 by Marisa Guthrie
Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, was interviewed by Tracy Smith for "Sunday Morning’s" money-themed broadcast in March.

While "GMA" and "Today" continue to duke it out Monday through Friday, Charles Osgood and executive producer Rand Morrison talk about their perennial underdog's surging status.

This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Since the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences added the morning program category in 2007, the two top-rated weekday shows -- NBC's Today and ABC's Good Morning America -- have divvied up the statuettes. The count stands at 4-3 for Today, with a tie in 2007. GMA -- which in 2012 toppled Today's 16-year ratings streak and chronicled host Robin Roberts' health crisis and triumphant return -- might be the favorite heading into the June 16 ceremony. But it's got a new competitor: CBS Sunday Morning notched its first nomination with its first entry into the Daytime Emmys. (The network's weekday show, CBS This Morning, was not entered.) Although the race is fresh territory for Sunday Morning, the show, which bowed in 1979 with host Charles Kuralt, has achieved iconic status with its languid features and quirky contributors (the current crop includes Ben Stein, Nancy Giles and Mo Rocca). And it remains Sunday's top-rated morning show, finishing this season with an average of 5.7 million viewers, its best performance in a decade. Executive producer Rand Morrison, 63, and host Charles Osgood, 80, who replaced Kuralt in 1994, spoke to THR about the 34-year-old show's success.

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The Hollywood Reporter: How does it feel to be the insurgent in the morning show category?

Osgood: I think we have a little advantage, which is that our audience is probably sitting down and watching the whole show. It must be difficult to talk to an audience knowing that they're all very busy, getting the kids off to school, getting themselves to work.

THR: To what do you attribute the show's success and longevity?

Osgood: Our pieces can run 12 minutes or longer on occasion, and that's unthinkable to do during the week. It's a special day, and our broadcast is designed for that day. We don't yell at anybody. And we don't let anybody yell at us. It's not loud.

THR: You've scored your best ratings in a decade. What's behind the uptick?

Morrison: It's our best since 1993, which makes me feel incredibly anxious. But it's really nice. Don't get me wrong. It's really nice. I do think the DVR has helped. If you're out walking the dog at 9:30 on a Sunday morning, you can catch up with the show any time you choose. And I think that does help us, particularly on the West Coast, where we're on at what I would consider to be an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning.

Osgood: We want to be accessible, but we don't dumb it down. Sometimes during the broadcast, I get a look at the tweets coming in. They're watching us, and we're watching them. Our audience is very smart. I think they're smarter than we are. We never talk down to them. If we make a mistake, they will let us know.

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THR: Why do you think the show is such a coveted platform for Hollywood?

Morrison: Because we have the luxury of time. We aren't looking for sound bites. We're not trying to squeeze it down to three minutes. And we have an audience that is interested in a broad range of topics. They go to movies, they buy books, they listen to music, they want to hear about what's going on in the larger world.

THR: How has Sunday Morning evolved?

Morrison: We are a more inclusive broadcast. We interviewed 50 Cent. We are as likely to do a story about Picasso as we are to do a story about graffiti.

THR: Is it an honor just to be nominated?

Morrison: We're flattered to be in such good company.

Osgood: If we win, we'll be very surprised. We'll be happy, too.

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