David Muir, Lester Holt In See-Saw Battle For Evening-News Viewers

The evening-news war between ABC and NBC continues unabated.

There’s no question that ABC’s “World News Tonight” has taken the evening-news lead from NBC’s “Nightly News,” which the latter dominated for years. But just when one might think ABC’s David Muir ought to do a victory dance, NBC’s Lester Holt gets back in the fight.

ABC continued to win the audience coveted by advertisers in the most recent five-day period measured by Nielsen, but NBC’s evening newscast was watched by more viewers overall, the first time that NBC has claimed those bragging rights since the week of March 23.

The Muir-anchored “World News Tonight” attracted an average of 1,856,000 viewers between 25 and 54, the demographic desired most by sponsors of news programming, during the five-day period lasting from April 27 to May 1, according to Nielsen. In comparison, an average of 1,726,000 watched NBC’s “Nightly News” and an average of 1,430,000 watched CBS’ “Evening News.” The win marks the seventh time in the last eight weeks ABC has won the category.

The ABC newscast won 130,000 more viewers in the category than its NBC rival, compared with a lead of 180,000 in the prior five-day period.

Any edge NBC has had over ABC in the so-called advertiser demo has become negligible, a signal that its newscast has weakened in recent months. Holt is anchoring in place of Brian Williams, who is in the midst of a six-month suspension after acknowledging he falsified an account of a 2003 NBC News reporting trip to Iraq. NBC News is investigating other instances in which Williams may have embellished the truth, and there are questions whether the once-celebrated newsman may return to the broadcast.

Season to date, “Nightly News” has averaged 2.153 million viewers between 25 and 54, just 5,000 more than ABC’s “World News,” and 9,072,000 million total viewers, 420,000 more than ABC.

Holt is proving to have some allure, however, demonstrated last week as he journeyed to Baltimore twice to anchor during recent unrest in that Maryland city. The NBC newscast wooed an average of 7,760,000 viewers overall, according to Nielsen, compared with an average of 7,687,000 who turned into ABC’s “World News” and an average of 6,576,000 who watched CBS’ “Evening News.” Muir also paid a visit to Baltimore last week.

NBC attracted 39,000 more viewers to its newscast than ABC. But “World News” had 122,000 more viewers overall than NBC in the previous five-day period.

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