David Muir
ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua

The battle for evening-news dominance between ABC and NBC has flared anew.

After weeks of being trumped by NBC’s “NBC Nightly News,” anchored by Lester Holt, ABC’s “World News Tonight” has snared more viewers for a full week of broadcasts, a signal the war between the two networks for victory in the venerable genre has intensified again. NBC’s program continued to win the greatest number of viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, the demographic most desired by advertisers in news programming.

In the first week of 2016, ABC’s “World News,” anchored by David Muir, lured an average of 9,772,000 viewers, compared with 9,687,000 for NBC’s “Nightly News” and 8,206,000 for the Scott Pelley-anchored “CBS Evening News,” according to data from Nielsen. ABC also had more viewers during the previous week, but comparisons are troublesome as Kate Snow anchored the NBC broadcasts and only three of the programs during the holiday week were rated.

Among viewers between 25 and 54, “Nightly News” lured an average of 2,418,000, compared with 2,193,000 for “World News” and 1,981,000 for “Evening News.”

“NBC Nightly News” was under intense scrutiny in the first half of 2015. Longtime anchor Brian Williams had been suspended for embellishing details about a past reporting trip to Iraq. Holt filled in for weeks and NBC largely suspended promotion of the newscast until it could determine what personnel shifts were to be made. During that time, ABC’s newscast stole the first-place position that NBC’s “Nightly News” had commanded since September 7, 2009.

Once Holt officially took over anchor duties for “Nightly” in June, the clouds seemed to lift and the NBC newscast returned to its dominant position.

The NBC program continues to lead. Season to date, Holt’s newscast has commanded an average of 8,931,000 viewers, 293,000, or 3% ahead of Muir’s program. In the advertiser demo, “Nightly News” has won an average of 2,383,000, 189,000, or 10%, more than the ABC newscast.

But the war continues.

A change in the way Nielsen tallies its viewer sample may have had an effect on the rankings. Nielsen has expanded the viewer panel behind its tabulations, having added additional meters and households. Whether that change lends more wind to Muir and “World News” in weeks to come remains to be seen.


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