'Early' rising: demo ratings, viewership up

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NEW YORK -- Things are looking up at CBS' "The Early Show."

Long an also-ran in the morning news race and overshadowed by NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America," the eye's morning show has been able to carve out gains in major ratings categories during the February sweep.

"Early" was up 4% in viewership for the week ending Feb. 23 with 2.9 million, up 8% in the key morning demo of women 25-54 (1.2/7) and held steady in adults 18-49 and women 18-49, according to data released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research.

In fact, "Early" was on track to finish the February sweep with a 2.5 household rating -- its best measure since 2004. It's a sign of the progress the broadcast has made in the past year since CBS News vp (and "Today" show veteran) Steve Friedman joined the network.

"Today" -- in comparison to February 2006, when it had Katie Couric and NBC had the Winter Olympics -- was down 17% in viewers to 6.9 million but still comfortably ahead of second-place "GMA." ABC was basically flat with 5 million viewers for the week. "Today" was at 12-year lows for the February sweep, according to a rival network.

Friedman, who still acknowledges that "Early" is a long way from getting out of third place, is comforted by the fact that they've had five good weeks in a row, helped in part by being on-scene in Miami for CBS' coverage of Super Bowl XLI in early February. He also believes that the network has been able to pick up some of the "Today" audience.

"For us, three-tenths of a point is a big move, but we have a long ways to go," Friedman said. "Be pretty clear on this: We're still in third place."
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