Nielsen Error Squelches ABC’s Evening News Victory Over NBC

As things turn out, Brian Williams can hold his own with David Muir.

NBC’s decades-long winning streak over ABC and CBS in the evening-news wars remains intact. Though ABC believed its David Muir-led “World News Tonight” won more viewers overall than NBC’s “Nightly News” for the week ended Sept. 29 – potentially marking the first time in about five years when the NBC show was not the evening newscast preferred by more total viewers – it turns out ABC was misled. An error by Nielsen, the company whose ratings surveys are supposed to stand as the final word on audience for TV programming, resulted in ABC being awarded too much credit for its newscast.

Revised data provided by NBC state that an average of 8.283 million people watched “Nightly News” that week, while an average of 8.113 million tuned into ABC’s “World News.” Previous data suggested ABC had attracted an average of 8.416 million while NBC had notched an average of 8.25 million.

“We are pleased that the corrected numbers confirm that ‘NBC Nightly News’ is the #1 news broadcast in America, and has been for the last 265 weeks,” NBC News said in a statement.

To be certain, ABC remains the victor in the audience category most coveted by advertisers in news programming, people between 25 and 54. The Alphabet network has been making strides on that front for months against NBC.

“World News Tonight” is in the tightest evening news race in several years and we’re honored the viewers are responding,” ABC News said in a statement.

The revised numbers means NBC has dominated the evening-news landscape in terms of total viewers for more than 265 weeks.

The reversal of fortune comes after Nielsen acknowledged late last week that a glitch in its software had been erroneously awarding viewership among broadcast networks and syndicated programs since March. Several broadcast networks said the ratings-measurement company had improperly awarded viewers to ABC to the detriment of its rivals. Nielsen executives declined to talk about specific networks, but said 98% to 99% of ratings would not be affected by more than .05 of a ratings point. Cable networks and local programming were unaffected by the snafu.

[Updated, 10:23 AM]

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