Evening News Battle Flares As CBS Tops ABC In Total Viewers On Two Nights

ABC continues to lead CBS in evening news, but the Eye musters a brief surge

CBS Evening News

There’s a little fight in the “CBS Evening News.”

For the first time since Katie Couric anchored “The CBS Evening News” in September of 2006, the program was watched by more viewers on an individual night than ABC’s “World News,” suggesting the competition between the three venerable network newscasts may be intensifying.

“CBS Evening News” won more total viewers on average than ABC’s “World News” twice last week, winning 148,000 more viewers on Wednesday and 91,000 more viewers on Thursday, according to Nielsen data. The last time CBS beat ABC in total viewers came for the week ending September 29, 2006. CBS also beat ABC in the audience demographic favored by advertisers in news programming, viewers between 25 and 54, during last Wednesday’s broadcast. The last time CBS beat ABC in the demo came during the week of February 17, 2012.

To be sure, CBS’ broadcast remains in third place, while NBC’s “Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News” hold the first and second spots in the network-news pecking order. But CBS’ ability to grow audience and even briefly topple ABC’s newscast – which itself has been narrowing its gap with NBC – suggests viewership for the three programs can be in flux at any time.

CBS’ surge comes as the Scott Pelley-anchored newscast  added 960,000 viewers for the week of December 6, compared to the year-earlier week – more than ABC and NBC combined. With the death of Nelson Mandela and  severe winter storms in the news – big breaking events – all three newscasts lured more viewers. NBC and ABC added 730,000 together in the week ended December 6.

CBS’ recent success should not necessarily be interpreted as weakness by ABC. Season to date, “World News” has decreased the lead of”NBC Nightly News'”  in viewers in the 25-to-54 demo, while increasing its lead in that category over “CBS Evening News.” Nielsen figures for the season show “World News” leading CBS by over 1 million viewers overall and by 335,000 viewers between 25 and 54.