He’s the face of the longest-running TV program in American history, a news program that debuted in 1947.
But now, officials at NBC have ordered psychological research of “Meet the Press” host David Gregory and his family, in a desperate attempt to make the newsman more likable, as the show’s ratings have plunged off a cliff, sounding alarm bells among top network brass.
Published reports indicate friends of Gregory and even his wife have been interviewed by a psychologist mandated by the network to figure out how the Sunday-morning host could possibly relate better to the American populace.
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.”
Meanwhile sources told Page Six of the New York Post that NBC also commissioned audience tests of other replacement hosts, including NBC political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd, who is said to have scored even less favorably than Gregory.
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.”
For decades, “Meet the Press” was consistently the No. 1 news show on Sunday mornings, with former host Tim Russert attracting an audience 40 percent larger than his rivals, an unheard-of margin in TV. But since Russert’s death in 2008, ratings with Gregory at the helm have plunged to No. 3, and remain in the midst of a three-year slide.
In the first three months of 2014, for instance, Gregory’s program finished behind rivals “Face the Nation” on CBS and “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” on ABC, despite the assistance of two weeks of Winter Olympics celebrations. In the final quarter of 2013, ratings among the highly coveted 25-to-54 demographic plummeted 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.”
Among the biggest hurdles for Gregory is overcoming the “ghost” of Russert, who, according to one NBC colleague, still haunts Gregory’s tenure six years into the job.