In September, Chuck Todd became the 12th full-time moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the longest-running show on network TV. A look at some of his predecessors helps trace the highs and lows of the program’s 67-year history.
The half-hour show’s co-creator, a hands-off host, remains the only full-time female moderator in the show’s history. The program developed a reputation for breaking news in contentious interviews, and producers boasted of 5 million weekly viewers by 1951.
After nearly 20 years as a firebrand panelist, the show’s other co-creator spent nearly a decade as moderator. The New York Times pegged weekly viewership at 10 million in 1967, writing, “The names of the people who have appeared on the program read like a roll-call of contemporary history.”
Competition from other Sunday programs increased throughout the 1980s. “MTP is no longer at the top of the talk-show ratings race,” The Washington Post wrote in 1987, “and many observers feel its rivals have overtaken it.” By 1990, under Utley, viewership had dwindled to an estimated 2.6 million.
Under Russert, the program extended to an hour and became more geared toward one-on-one interviews. By the time of Russert’s death in 2008, MTP consistently drew more than 4 million viewers and had won the Sunday ratings battle in 353 of the 354 previous weeks.
Gregory presided over a steady decline in the program’s viewership and influence, averaging 2.37 million total viewers in the second quarter of 2014, nearly a half million fewer than ABC’s This Week and CBS’ Face the Nation.