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‘CBS Evening News’ Rises for Second Straight Season Under Scott Pelley

Though still in third, it has chopped more than 1 million viewers from first-place NBC's lead

The trend lines continue to head in the right direction for the “CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley,” which remains in third place but has wrapped a second straight season of ratings growth.

The program, which has been anchored for nearly two years by Pelley, added nearly 500,000 viewers from last season — its biggest year-to-year gain in 15 years (since the 1997-98 season) and the largest increase from one year to the next by any network in 11 years.

Overall, it was another good season for the three broadcast evening newscasts, as each gained viewers, according to Nielsen estimates for the period of Sept. 24, 2012-May 22, 2013. Combined, the average audience tuning into CBS’ “Evening News,” ABC’s “World News” and NBC’s “Nightly News” rose to 23.4 million viewers this season — vs. 22.6 million last year and 23.2 million two years ago.

These steady numbers are in contrast to the declining ratings in just about every other daypart for the broadcast networks during the same three years.

CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley” remains in third place, averaging 6.71 million viewers during the traditional television season — a gain of 490,000 viewers (or 8%) from last year. It’s also up 12% from the 2010-11 season (5.99 million), as it is the only newscast to gain viewers for two straight seasons.

As a result, after trailing longtime leader NBC by 3.14 million viewers two years ago at this time, the deficit is down to 2 million. Over the past year, the CBS newscast also cut the viewer deficit with second-place ABC by nearly a quarter of a million viewers (1.44 million to 1.21 million).

ABC’s “World News With Diane Sawyer” averaged 7.92 million viewers this season (up 3% from last year), while NBC’s “Nightly News With Brian Williams” averaged 8.72 million (up 0.3%).

In the key news demo of adults 25-54,  “CBS Evening News” was up a tick to 1.6, while NBC (2.0) and ABC (1.7) held steady. After the 2010-11 season, the Peacock program enjoyed a fatter 0.7 lead over the Eye (2.2 to 1.5).

Audiences have responded to Pelley, under whom the “CBS Evening News” has been geared more toward hard news and less toward softer news or infotainment. He took over for Katie Couric on June 6, 2011, and the ratings have been steadily rising ever since.

Pelley, who serves as managing editor and anchor of “CBS Evening News,” was Chief White House correspondent for CBS from 1997 to 1999 and has also been a regular contributor to “60 Minutes.”

Over the last two years, honors for the “CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley” have included a Peabody Award (for foreign correspondent Clarissa Ward’s reporting from Syria), a duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards (also for Ward’s reporting) and the Polk Award for the newscast’s report “House Arrest: A Daring Escape From China” by correspondent Holly Williams).

Patricia Shevlin is the executive producer of the CBS newscast.

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