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ABC Can’t Keep Lester Holt Down; NBC’s ‘Nightly News’ Wins Ad Audience

Lester Holt isn’t giving up on the war to woo evening-news viewers.

After losing the battle to win more of the audience advertisers in news programming covet, the NBC “Nightly News” anchor lured a greater number of viewers between 25 and 54  for the five days between April 13 and April 17, than David Muir at ABC’s “World News Tonight”or Scott Pelley at CBS’ “Evening News,” according to data from Nielsen.

The numbers suggest the dust has yet to settle over the evening-news race in the wake of a six-month suspension doled out to longtime anchor Brian Williams. He disclosed earlier this year that he falsified accounts of an NBC News trip to Iraq in 2003. NBC continues to investigate Williams, and people seem divided over whether he ought to return to the “Nightly” desk.

Meantime, there’s still an intense push-and-pull going on between NBC and ABC, the latter of which won more viewers overall for the most recent five-day period and has trumped NBC in that category for the last three weeks. “NBC Nightly News” had been the most-watched newscast in the U.S. for more than five years dating back to September, 2009.

The margin of separation between the two networks’ newscasts is razor thin – just 7,000 viewers. “Nightly News” won an average of 1,795,000 viewers between 25 and 54, according to Nielsen, compared withan average of 1,788,000 for “World News Tonight” and an average of 1,523,000 for “CBS Evening News.”

All three newscasts lost viewers in the demo compared with the week-earlier period. ABC’s audience dipped 12% from 2,032,000. NBC’s fell 2.55% from 1,842,000 and CBS’; dipped 3.1% from 1,571,000.

ABC, however, remained the nation’s most-watched newscast – a distinction that is less important to advertisers than it is to the networks. ABC’s “World News” lured an average of 7,891,000 during the most recent five-day period, compared with an average of 7,737,000 for NBC and 6,780,000 for CBS.

All three network newscasts lost viewers in that category as well. ABC’s average total viewership dipped 4.4% from 8,250,000 in the week earlier period. NBC’s fell 3.6%from 8,022,000, and CBS’ slipped by just 0.66% from 6,825,000.

Ultimate victory could be within NBC’ s or ABC’s grasp. “Nightly’s” lead over “World News” in viewers between 25 and 54 season to date is just 1%, while its lead in total viewers over ABC is only 5%.

While the CBS newscast typically comes in third, the network has maintained its delivery of viewers between 25 and 54 year over year and saw its overall viewership rise 8%, from 6,300,000 over the year-earlier week.

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