NEW YORK — The “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather” tied “NBC Nightly News” for first place in households last week, the first time in five years the Eye web has occupied the top ratings spot.
Both earned an 8.6 rating and a 17 share, according to Nielsen, followed by ABC’s “World News Tonight” (8.4/16). Excluding Olympics periods during which CBS also has won, the network last earned top bragging rights for the week of Aug. 24, 1992, when Hurricane Andrew boosted ratings, and last tied for first place the week of Dec. 30, 1990.
“We’re elated, thankful, hopeful,” Rather said Tuesday. “Five years is a long time, and in that five years we’ve had very heavy blows to our delivery system from which we’ve yet to fully recover,” he said, referring to affiliate defections that hurt the network in key markets.
Rather believes that a focus on hard news, improvements in CBS’ primetime standings relative to other networks and a focus on rebuilding O&O stations all have helped. “I’m very appreciative of everybody at CBS,” he said. “A concentrated, aggressive, lets-move-forward attitude has certainly helped us.”
NBC execs question the impact that CBS’ “hard news” positioning has on ratings, and insists its own attempt to liven up its broadcast hasn’t compromised the depth of its news coverage. In any event, the network news race lately has proved the most volatile and tightly contested in years, so CBS’ celebration may prove short-lived.
In other key categories, the Eye came in second in total viewers, with 11.7 million to NBC’s 11.9 million and ABC’s 11.1 million. And Rather was third in the key 25-to-54 news demo, with a 3.5/14 compared to NBC’s 4.2/16 and ABC’s 3.8/15, but was the only one of the trio to show growth vs. a year ago.
Season-to-date in households, CBS is up 7%, to a 7.7/16, while NBC is up 1% to an 8.4/17 and ABC is down 6% to an 8.0/17.