NEW YORK — Brian Williams came out of the gate sprinting with a gust of wind at his back.
The heir to Tom Brokaw’s anchor chair at NBC’s “Nightly News” took a leap toward retaining the ratings crown held by his predecessor, scoring 11.7 million viewers for his first broadcast, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data.
That was a 24% dropoff from Brokaw’s blockbuster final night in the anchor chair, but it still bested ABC’s “World News Tonight” by 26% and CBS’ “Evening News” by 57%.
Boffo ratings for Brokaw’s final broadcast show there is a significant public curiosity in the anchor transition, the first at the networks since 1983. But when the dust clears, the question remains whether Williams will be able to hold on to Brokaw’s lead long-term.
If Williams can retain the lead, he will have to do so with diminished support from a fading NBC primetime lineup, which finished third in the November sweeps.
Breathing down his neck will be ABC’s Peter Jennings, who won nine of the 10 largest media markets on William’s debut night.
In November, NBC’s Brokaw newscast averaged 11.15 million viewers, while ABC’s Jennings averages 10.02 million and CBS’ Dan Rather 7.72 million.
NBC’s “Nightly News” held a 13% lead over ABC and 44% lead over CBS for the month of November.