Ankling anchor averaged 10 mil viewers for season

In an early retirement gift for Tom Brokaw, his evening newscast on NBC News finished the 2003-04 television season posting its best advantage ever over ABC News in all key ratings categories.

“Nightly News With Tom Brokaw” averaged 10 million viewers for the season, 8% more than the Alphabet’s “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings” (9.2 million) and a whopping 32% lead over CBS News’ “Evening News With Dan Rather” (7.5 million), according to Nielsen Media Research.

In the key news demo, “Nightly” posted a 2.7 rating in adults 25-54 for the season, 4% more than ABC’s 2.6 rating and 29% more than CBS’ 2.1.

“It’s an overwhelming victory for us,” said “Nightly” exec producer Steve Capus. “There is no question but that Tom is going out on top.”

With its showing, Brokaw’s show has now been the No. 1 evening newscast for eight years. Anchor will retire in December, turning over his chair to Brian Williams.

The 2003-04 season ended Sunday and included last week’s numbers for the evening newscasts.

In terms of ratings, the impact of CBS News’ admission that it failed journalistically in airing questionable documents tarnishing President Bush’s National Guard service record won’t be clear for a few weeks. Numbers for last week, when the controversy got going in full force, showed no out-of-the-ordinary dips or gains for “Evening,” which has long been the No. 3 network newscast.

“Evening” averaged 7.4 million viewers and drew a 2.0 rating in adults 25-54 last week. “Nightly” averaged 9.8 million viewers and drew a 2.7 rating, while “World” averaged 8.6 million viewers and drew a 2.5 rating.

In June, “World” widely celebrated the fact that it finished the second quarter of 2004 beating “Nightly” in the demo.

“Nightly,” however, restored its lead in 3Q 2004. NBC newscast drew a 2.4 rating, while ABC drew a 2.3 rating.

Fox News Channel saw its own milestone last week, ranking as the third most-watched cable network of the week — whether entertainment or news — behind ESPN and USA Network.

According to Nielsen, Fox News averaged 2.1 million viewers, up 74% from the same frame a year ago — the most growth of any cable net. Bill O’Reilly’s primetime talkshow was among the top 40 cable shows for the second week in a row.

Fox News has been seeing its numbers climb steadily since the Republican National Convention. Stories dominating the airwaves last week included Hurricane Ivan, the 2004 presidential election and the CBS News document controversy.

MSNBC, which ranked 31 last week among cable nets, grew its audience by 71% compared to the same week a year before (435,000 vs. 255,000).

CNN ranked 15 on Nielsen’s list of cable nets, commanding 922,000 viewers last week, up 25% from the year before.

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