***UPDATE (5:02PM)*** We received a statement from NBC spokeswoman Meghan Pianta, as follows:
Last year Meet the Press brought in a brand consultant—not, as reported, a psychological one—to better understand how its anchor connects. This is certainly not unusual for any television program, especially one that’s driven so heavily by one person.
According to Politico , they contacted the author of the piece, Paul Farhi, and reported this :
Farhi said he checked with NBC twice on Sunday about the term “psychological” and that they had no objections at the time.
“I checked it twice with them yesterday. No objections then,” he wrote in an email.
With NBC’s crown jewel Meet The Press slipping to third place among the Sunday morning talk shows, studio brass hired a ‘psychological consultant’ to interview host David Gregory’s wife and friends in search of a solution to his plummeting ratings.
According to the Washington Post, the ratings for Meet the Press have been in a free fall during the past three years with the show now charting behind Face the Nation on CBS and This Week With George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
In the first three months of this year, MTP ratings among the desirable 25 to 54 demographic coveted by TV news advertisers has plummeted to its lowest level ever.
Last year, the network commissioned a psychological consultant to interview Gregory’s friends and wife. According to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, the network wanted “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best,” a project some at the network found unusual given his almost 20 year tenure at NBC.
Rumors had swirled earlier this year that NBC was considering replacing Gregory only for the network to instead expand his duties by increasing the shows “digital presence” so that, in the words of NBC News president Deborah Turness, Meet the Press would become a “7 days-a-week source for politics and beltway buzz.”
In its heyday, under the late Tim Russert, Meet The Press was a cash cow for NBC earning the network a reported $60 million in 2007.