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Rather signoff wins one for ‘Evening’

Final newscast scores big

NEW YORK — Dan Rather’s last newscast as anchor gave CBS’ “Evening News” a rare victory in the ratings.

Rather, who signed off exhorting America to have “courage,” finished first in Nielsen’s 56 metered markets, averaging a 7.3 household rating/13 share. NBC’s Brian Williams (6.5/12) and ABC’s Peter Jennings (6.4/12) settled for also-ran status on the night.

Rather inherited the ratings lead when he took the anchor’s chair from Walter Cronkite on March 9, 1981, and held on for another eight years before losing it to ABC’s Jennings. NBC’s Tom Brokaw took the lead in 1996, thanks in part to the net’s enormous primetime success at the time. Williams has held onto NBC’s lead since Brokaw retired in December.

Brokaw similarly enjoyed a boffo sendoff on his last broadcast. Nearly 15.4 million viewers flocked to his final broadcast Dec. 1, drawing the newscast’s biggest aud since Jan. 17, 1997.

The CBS News special “Dan Rather: A Reporter Remembers” placed third among total viewers in its 8 o’clock time period Wednesday (behind ABC’s “Lost” and Fox’s “That ’70s Show”), averaging 9.22 million viewers.

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