America tuned in to see Couric's last 'Today' show


Katie Couric's farewell Wednesday was seen by one of the largest audiences in the recent history of NBC's Today show. The three-hour telecast drew an average audience of 8.4 million viewers - compared to the morning show's usual audience of 5.8 million viewers.

Couric's finale ranks as the fourth highest-rated single Today telecast since the introduction of Nielsen People Meters in 1987 - the technology on which audience estimates for Wednesday's program is based. Ranking ahead of it are telecasts on the mornings following the 1989 San Francisco earthquake (8.5 million viewers) and the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections (12.3 million and 9.0 million, respectively).

Couric's farewell topped those of former Today show co-hosts Bryant Gumbel in 1997 (8.0 million) and Jane Pauley in 1989 (5.6 million).

Based on the preliminary Nielsen People Meter data, NBC estimates that a cumulative audience of 19 million viewers tuned in throughout the program Wednesday.

Today, which finished the season last week as the highest-rated morning show, earns about $225 million annually for NBC.

David Zurawik

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