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Bush gives ABC ratings push

Net wins due to a technicality

Last week ABC News claimed an unlikely ratings win.

According to weekly Nielsen numbers, ABC’s “World News Tonight” took the total-viewer crown away from NBC’s “Nightly News” for the first time since Brian Williams took over for Tom Brokaw in December.

Even more impressive, this feat was achieved with Charlie Gibson and Elizabeth Vargas at the helm while Peter Jennings undergoes chemotherapy for lung cancer.

The ABC press machine sent out a release touting the ratings win, which Matt Drudge posted on his site, claiming a 110,000-viewer margin, 8.89 million to 8.78 million.

But while ABC’s hard-earned victory was official in the eyes of Nielsen, it didn’t past the smell test, or the fairness test.

ABC won, in a sense, on a technicality. All the networks were preempted in some markets due to President Bush’s press conference April 28. But since ABC had lower coverage due to the speech (81%), Nielsen dropped its Thursday numbers from its average.

Since NBC had higher coverage (89%), its Thursday numbers were included in the average.

NBC, of course, cried foul. The Peacock had higher numbers on all other nights but April 28 and beat ABC in total viewers for the week.

NBC News had been riding a 42-week Nielsen winning streak, but now there’s an asterisk at 43. NBC may have won the week in the eyes of viewers, but not in the eyes of Nielsen.