Meredith Vieira Boosts Today Ratings

09/15/2006 at 08:25 AM EDT

Meredith Vieira Boosts Today Ratings
Meredith Vieira
John Spellman / Retna
On Meredith Vieira's second day on the Today show, cohost Matt Lauer joked that she'd actually shown up for work. She wasn't going anywhere until her paycheck cleared, Vieira shot back.

Looks like she doesn't have to worry. Vieira's Wednesday debut on NBC's 53-year-old morning show gave the already top-rated Today even higher ratings, with more than 6.9 million viewers tuning in – the best numbers since Katie Couric's farewell in May – according to Nielsen Media Research.

That put Today well ahead of its chief rival, ABC's Good Morning America, which claimed 4.4 million viewers – giving Today its biggest lead over GMA since August 2004.

It also was, with the exceptions of Couric's last day and four days during this year's Winter Olympics, the most-watched Today since December 9, 2005.

Vieira's successor on ABC's The View, Rosie O'Donnell, also had reason to celebrate. Her first five days gave the show its best-rated debut week ever, and best among women ages 18-49 since February 2005, Nielsen says.

Meanwhile, on CBS, Couric's Evening News – which finished in first place last week, when she took over the anchor chair – experienced a major ratings dip on Monday, only to rebound on Tuesday.

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