By James Hibberd
Updated April 16, 2012 at 06:02 PM EDT
Credit: ABC

NBC’s historic Today show ratings reign might be coming to an end.

ABC’s Good Morning America may have finally broken Today‘s 16-year winning streak. Preliminary ratings show GMA averaging 5.147 million viewers for the week of April 9 compared to Today‘s 5.134 million. That’s a razor-thin margin of 13,000 viewers, with final numbers to come later this week.

An ABC analyst says the network is “cautiously optimistic” that GMA will come out on top. “This is an exciting day but we will save any celebrating for when the final numbers come in on Thursday,” said GMA senior executive producer Tom Cibrowski.

Today‘s executive producer Jim Bell conceded defeat and graciously cited ABC’s accomplishment.

Today‘s 852-week winning streak had taken on a life of its own and as odd as it is to see it end, we should acknowledge just how remarkable it has been,” he said. “So as we tip our caps to the team at Good Morning America, we can also take a bow ourselves and recognize the work done by countless staffers for so long. It is not an overstatement to call it one of the most incredible achievements in television history, one that is not likely to ever happen again. While the streak has been wonderful affirmation of our work, it has never defined us, and we will continue to innovate, take chances and lead the way.”

GMA has been striving to overtake Today in recent weeks, at one point bringing on former Today co-host Katie Couric as a guest host. Three times in the last four weeks, GMA ranked as the No. 1 morning newscast twice during the course of the week. Overall, GMA was up 7 percent compared to the same week last year, while Today declined 9 percent.

NBC’s rating have been getting pummeled in prime time, and in recent years the network has lost its consistent dominance in late night too. But the network’s morning block has remained uncontested until now (assuming, again, that these numbers hold up in the national ratings). At least NBC doesn’t have to worry about losing host Matt Lauer, who earlier this month renewed his deal with the show with a multi-year contract.

What do you think: What can Today do to stay on top?

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