In an interview with The Washington Post, “Meet the Press” host David Gregory said the show is fighting “like hell” to improve its ratings.
“And it’s tough right now. It’s a fight,” Gregory said. “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.”
Calling the show the longest-running TV program in American history, the paper reports that “Meet the Press” has suffered a three-year ratings slide. The fourth-quarter of 2013 saw its ratings for the 24-54 demo fall to their lowest number ever, the piece adds.
“Bad enough,” the report notes. “But fairly or not, Gregory’s ‘Meet the Press’ still gets measured against the lofty peaks scaled by Tim Russert, his predecessor. Russert, the folksy inquisitor, ruled the ratings for more than a decade until his death in June 2008. He often attracted an audience 40 percent larger than his rivals, an unheard-of margin in television.”
The slide has draw the attention of NBC News President Deborah Turness, and while Gregory’s job “does not appear to be in any immediate jeopardy,” there are signs of trouble, the story notes.
For one, NBC last year commissioned a psychological consultant to make an assessment of Gregory, in order to get insight and perspective into the host, according to the story. “But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years,” the piece adds.
NBC also tapped a new executive producer, Rob Yarin, who worked with Gregory previously on MSNBC.
Now Yarin and Gregory say they are tweaking the show to make it faster paced, including using shorter interviews. “The overall effect is that the program now bears only a vague resemblance to the one over which Russert presided," the story reports. "Whereas Russert would spend multiple segments grilling a single newsmaker, Gregory now barely goes more than six or seven minutes on any interview or topic."
The show also features new segments, such as a recorded feature called “Meeting America” and a photos-of-the-week section called “Images to Remember.”
But one big issue is simply following in Russert’s footsteps, the story notes.
“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 told the publication. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for Tim and his legacy. And I’m doing my own thing, just like Tim did.”