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News shows battle for fall supremacy

ABC's "Good Morning America" continues to lead ratings

The battle for ratings supremacy among the daily broadcast news shows is heating up this fall, with longtime leader NBC losing ground both in the morning and evening — though it’s still on top in the latter.

All news programs, meanwhile, figure to get a ratings boost over the next couple of weeks thanks to the presidential election and its aftermath.

ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which this summer overtook NBC’s “Today” for the first time in 17 years, has continued its momentum the first month of the fall season. The Alphabet morning show has won the opening four weeks — this despite the absence of co-anchor Robin Roberts, who is on medical leave.

According to Nielsen estimates for the period of Sept. 24-Oct. 19, “GMA” is 600,000 total viewers ahead of “Today” (4.91 million to 4.31 million) and 200,000 ahead in the adults 25-54 demo (1.93m to 1.73m). These are the show’s largest advantages since at least the fall of 1991, when Nielsen’s electronic database launched.

The ABC newscast is up in both total viewers (3%) and adults 25-54 (4%) while “Today” is down a steep 17% and 26%, respectively.

As it has for decades, CBS remains a laggard in this daypart. “CBS This Morning” has held its audience, though, up 2% in total viewers (to 2.55 million) and down 1% in 25-54 (to 992,000).

The Eye has seen improved fortunes in the evening news race, where “CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley” remains in third place but is up 6% in total viewers (to 6.01 million) and 2% in adults 25-54 (to 1.67 million). At the same time, leader NBC’s “Nightly News With Brian Williams” is down 4% in total viewers (to 7.69 million) and 8% in adults 25-54 (to 2.07 million), while ABC’s second-place “World News With Diane Sawyer” is off 2% in overall audience (to 7.25 million) and 11% in the key news demo (to 1.79 million).

So the race between NBC and ABC is closer, while CBS has gained ground on both, with “Evening News” now within 120,000 viewers of “World News” through the opening month of the season.

For CBS, the key was switching to Pelley, the former war reporter and White House correspondent who also has worked on both “60 Minutes” and its spinoff “60 Minutes 2.” He took over from Katie Couric in June 2011 and has slowly and steadily made up lost ground since.

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