ABC cap­tures top ‘News’ slot

Los Angeles Times - - CULTURE MONSTER -

NBC’s “Nightly News” lost the weekly rat­ings com­pe­ti­tion for the first time since 2009 — and for the first time since an­chor Brian Wil­liams was suspended in Fe­bru­ary for telling a false story about his re­port­ing from the Iraq war.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” with David Muir av­er­aged 8 mil­lion view­ers last week, or 84,000 more than NBC’s news­cast, with Lester Holt as the sub­sti­tute an­chor. NBC had won 288 con­sec­u­tive weeks in the rat­ings.

NBC’s de­feat came in Holt’s sev­enth week fill­ing in for Wil­liams, who was suspended for six months, with NBC learn­ing about it the same day its ex­ec­u­tives read a dispir­it­ing Van­ity Fair ar­ti­cle about prob­lems at the news di­vi­sion over the last two years. NBC is con­duct­ing an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into other po­ten­tially false state­ments by Wil­liams and there’s been no word on when, or if, the net­work’s re­port will be pub­licly re­leased.

Dur­ing Holt’s seven weeks, “Nightly News” has main­tained an av­er­age 312,000-viewer lead over ABC, Nielsen said. Since the be­gin­ning of the tele­vi­sion sea­son last Septem­ber un­til he was suspended, Wil­liams’ mar­gin over ABC was 597,000 view­ers. Among the 25-to-54-year-old de­mo­graphic con­sid­ered most valu­able to ad­ver­tis­ers in news pro­gram­ming, Wil­liams’ lead of 38,000 view­ers has slipped to 5,000, Nielsen said.

Last week was also the first time in two months that NBC didn’t count view­ers of a mid­dle-of-the-night re­run of “Nightly News” in some small mar­kets across the coun­try in its rat­ings. ABC was in­fu­ri­ated by the rat­ings sleight of hand, which padded the NBC rat­ings with a hand­ful of in­som­ni­acs, and NBC’s win­ning streak likely would have ended two weeks ago with­out th­ese ad­di­tional view­ers. NBC stopped the prac­tice, legal un­der Nielsen’s rules, be­cause some ad­ver­tis­ers didn’t want their com­mer­cials shown then.

NBC News spokes­woman Erika Ma­son­hall said the net­work con­tin­ues to be pleased with Holt’s strong per­for­mance dur­ing Wil­liams’ sus­pen­sion. “We’re proud of the cal­iber of our work and re­main com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing the high­est qual­ity broad­cast for our au­di­ence ev­ery night,” she said.

The “CBS Evening News” av­er­aged 6.6 mil­lion view­ers last week.

In prime-time last week, the Easter Sun­day pre­miere of “A.D., the Bi­ble Con­tin­ues” on NBC was a top 10 show with 9.7 mil­lion view­ers. That was, how­ever, a mil­lion view­ers fewer than the orig­i­nal “The Bi­ble” minis­eries, also pro­duced by Mark Bur­nett and Roma Downey, on the His­tory net­work last year.

Also on Easter, ABC’s tra­di­tional air­ing of the movie “The Ten Com­mand­ments” reached 6.9 mil­lion view­ers, Nielsen said.

CBS won the week in prime time, av­er­ag­ing 8.1 mil­lion view­ers. ABC had 6.4 mil­lion, and won among 18to-49-year-old view­ers. NBC had 5.8 mil­lion, Fox had 3.2 mil­lion, Univi­sion had 2.6 mil­lion, Tele­mu­ndo had 1.5 mil­lion, the CW had 1.4 mil­lion and ION Tele­vi­sion had 1 mil­lion.

TBS, be­hind strong rat­ings for the NCAA men’s Fi­nal Four last week­end, led the ca­ble net­works with a prime-time av­er­age of 3.6 mil­lion view­ers. USA had 1.71 mil­lion, TNT had 1.67 mil­lion, Fox News Chan­nel had 1.65 mil­lion and the Dis­ney Chan­nel had 1.59 mil­lion. are the com­bined rank­ings for na­tional prime-time net­work and ca­ble tele­vi­sion last week (March 30-April 5) as com­piled by Nielsen. They are based on the av­er­age num­ber of peo­ple who watched a pro­gram from start to fin­ish dur­ing its sched­uled tele­cast or on a play­back de­vice the same day. Nielsen es­ti­mates there are 289 mil­lion po­ten­tial view­ers in the U.S. ages 2 and older. View­er­ship is listed in mil­lions.

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