ABC’s David Muir Fights Back in TV-News Battle With NBC’s Lester Holt

The fight for evening-news dominance between ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “NBC Nightly News” isn’t over yet — even if the NBC newscast has made great strides since Lester Holt officially took its reins in late June.

The ABC newscast, anchored by David Muir, won more of the viewers desired by advertisers in news programming than NBC’s in the five days between July 20 and July 24, according to Nielsen. It is the first time in five weeks that the ABC program has trumped NBC in this ratings category. “Nightly News” remained the most-watched evening newscast on broadcast TV, a position it has enjoyed for five consecutive weeks.

The two networks have been enveloped in a push-and-pull fracas for months. ABC’s newscast under Muir has made significant strides against NBC’s. Muir took over the anchor desk from Diane Sawyer in September of last year. As NBC grappled with the fallout from a disclosure made by the previous “Nightly” anchor, Brian Williams, that he falsified some accounts of previous reporting trips, ABC gained even more ground: In April, ABC’s “World News Tonight” bested “NBC Nightly News” in total viewers for the first time in more than five years.  For a time, ABC took the season-to-date lead among viewers between 25 and 54, too.

“World News Tonight” averaged 1,896,000 viewers between 25 and 54, according to Nielsen, compared with 1,841,00 for “NBC Nightly News” and 1,344,000 for CBS’ “CBS Evening News.” The NBC newscast was seen by an average of 7,657,000 viewers during the five-day period, compared with 7,440,000 viewers for “World News Tonight” and 6,064,000 viewers for “CBS Evening News.” Charlie Rose filled in for Scott Pelley during last week’s broadcasts.

The skirmish is far from over. Season to date as of last week, “Nightly News” leads “World News Tonight” by just 6,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54 and by 352,000 total viewers.

As this week’s ratings demonstrate, neither side’s position is guaranteed.


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