ABC’s David Muir triumphed over NBC’s Lester Holt for the second time in five weeks, winning more of the evening-news viewers advertisers care most about, as the switch to daylight saving time severely crimped NBC’s dominance in the evening-news wars.
NBC continued to lead ABC in terms of overall audience, but even that narrowed significantly for the five days ranging from March 9 to March 13: “NBC Nightly News” led ABC’s “World News” by just 11,000 viewers, according to Nielsen.
The NBC evening newscast won an average of 1.96 million viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, the demographic that sponsors of news programming pay most to reach, a tumble of 18% from the week-earlier period and 11% from the same week last year. ABC’s “World News” in turn lured an average of 2.033 million, down 11% week over week and up just 0.3% year over year. CBS’ “Evening News” won an average of 1,614,000, a dip of 9.3%.
Holt’s newscast is under scrutiny because of what is missing from it: Brian Williams, the longtime NBC evening-news stalwart who is in the midst of a six-month suspension owing to his falsification of an account of a reporting trip he made to Iraq in 2003. Under Holt, the newscast has continued to lead its rivals in overall viewers, but this marks ABC’s second win in the category that advertisers scrutinize and signals anew that the NBC newscast could face challenges in weeks to come. Holt holds the anchor chair as NBC conducts an internal investigation into Williams’ behavior.
“NBC Nightly News” won an average viewership of 8,131,000 for the five days between March 9 and March 13, marking a dip of 16.5% from the previous week and a tumble of 10.1% from the year-earlier period. ABC’s “World News” attracted an average of 8,120,000, while CBS’ “CBS Evening News” notched an average of 6,907,000. Total viewership for ABC fell 12.2% from the week-earlier period, while CBS’ fell 9.7%.
Among evening-news ratings watchers, the shift to daylight saving time is known to wreak havoc with viewer habits and cause volatility in the results. Holt’s newscast will likely be scrutinized to see if it can push back against “World News” as viewer behavior stabilizes.