Tallahassee Journal

Without Williams, NBC’s ‘Nightly News’ widens lead

Without Williams, NBC’s ‘Nightly News’ widens lead

NBC’s viewers aren’t missing Brian Williams. Its Nightly News, with substitute anchor Lester Holt, averaged a first-place 10.1 million viewers last week, a 416,000-viewer advantage over ABC’s World News with David Muir that widened slightly from the previous week, the first full week after Williams’ six-month suspension, when NBC claimed a 398,000-viewer advantage. ABC averaged 9.7 million last week, while the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, a perennial third-place finisher, netted 8.5 million.635598800866539445-AP-TV-NBC-Lester-Holt

Among the core audience of adults ages 25 to 54 that network newscasts sell to advertisers, ABC had a tiny edge last week, with 2.57 million viewers to NBC’s 2.55 million, reversing the previous week’s pecking order. (CBS had 2.03 million.)

For the season, and starting well before Williams stepped down, ABC has narrowed its gap with NBC in the evening-news race while continuing to beat NBC’s Today show with Good Morning America. ABC trailed by 1.2 million viewers at this point last season, but for the current season to date, it’s behind by 578,000.

Still, NBC’s ability to maintain its lead speaks to the slow-to-change habits of the older evening-news audience and to the appeal of Holt, who’s effectively auditioning to replace Williams permanently should he not return. Williams’ suspension follows his admitted embellishment of personal anecdotes including claims his helicopter had been shot down in Iraq in 2003, made on the newscast and elsewhere.