David Muir ABC News

NBC’s Lester Holt may be the most-watched evening-news anchor in the United States, but for advertisers, ABC’s David Muir is emerging as a favorite.

Muir’s “World News Tonight” broadcast on ABC has won more of the viewers advertisers covet for three consecutive weeks, a situation that threatens to undermine “NBC Nightly News” while that program is in transition.

“World News” attracted an average of 2,145,000 adults 25-54, the viewers most desired by sponsors fo news programs, for the five days between March 23 and March 27, according to data from Nielsen. “Nightly News,” meanwhile, attracted an average of 2,044,000, while CBS’ “CBS Evening News” won an average of 1,478,000.

The dynamics suggest that ABC is making notable incursions on NBC’s franchise. Holt remains a steady presence at NBC, but has lost some viewers in the absence of Brian Williams, who was placed on a six-month suspension following the disclosure that he falsified an account of a 2003 reporting trip in Iraq. Holt is filling in while NBC investigates Williams’ behavior, and is considered to be a candidate to keep the seat should NBCUniversal decide Williams ought not to return.

ABC’s 25-54 audience rose 10% over the previous five-day period, while NBC’s rose 5.6%, according to Nielsen.

NBC’s numbers include views of a wee-hours rebroadcast across 10 local stations owned by Gannett that NBC arranged to start about two months ago. Several advertisers asked to be pulled from those airings, according to a person familiar with the situation, which took place on the local stations between 2 and 4 a.m. The sponsors discovered the practice in recent days after ABC brought it to light, and objected to the latenight views counting as part of their agreements with the network.

NBC has agreed to pull national ads from those broadcasts, the person confirmed. What effect that may have on next week’s ratings, if any, remains to be seen. The advertiser pushback against NBC was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal.

To be sure, NBC’s Holt continues to be seen by more people than ABC’s Muir. “NBC Nightly News” attracted an average of 8,709,000 viewers during the five-day period, marking a rise of 2.2% over the week-earlier period.  ABC’s “World News” lured an average of 8,597,000, representing an 8% rise. CBS’ “Evening News” captured an average of 6,739,000, Nielsen said. The CBS broadcast was disrupted on two nights by NCAA basketball broadcasts in Western states.

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