TB patient infects networks

NEW YORK — CBS’ Katie Couric continued her slog through spring, registering a historic ratings low the week TB patient Andrew Speaker dominated headlines.

ABC’s Charles Gibson won the week of May 28 in total viewers with 7.86 million, compared to NBC’s 7.38 million, a smaller margin than the previous week. The two newscasts tied in the 25-54 demographic.

CBS’ Couric registered 5.5 million total viewers, its lowest total viewer delivery since at least 1987.

All three newscasts were compared on a four-day average excluding Memorial Day.

ABC’s Diane Sawyer scored an exclusive interview with Speaker, who caused an international scandal when he managed to board several international flights after having been diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Sawyer gave “World News” a teaser of her Speaker interview without a soundbite, saving the story for “Good Morning America” the following morning.

The Speaker drama became the year’s biggest medical story, and the network newscasts devoted 47 minutes to it, compared to 23 minutes to the Iraq troop surge, according to the Tyndall Report.

Nevertheless, ABC’s perf allowed Gibson to spend his sixth straight week in first place, the first time “World News” has done so since October 1996, the network said.

Season-to-date, NBC’s Brian Williams has lost 7% of his audience, while ABC’s Gibson has gained 3%, which allowed him to pull ahead over the past few months.

Couric has dropped 6% of her audience compared to last year with Bob Schieffer at the helm. Last week CBS management met with local affiliates and asked them to consider skipping the commercial break between their local newscasts and the “CBS Evening News,” to help boost its lead-in.

Overall evening news ratings have been hurt this spring by the early start to daylight-saving time, which started three weeks earlier than last year.

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