Katie Couric is back where she and the CBS Evening News show she anchors belongs: On the bottom of the ratings pile.
Her much-hyped debut as the new anchor started out at Number 1 a week ago but ratings fell steadily during the week. On Monday, she and the newscast were in familiar territory: Number 3 among the three major television networks.
Writes Peter Johnson in USA Today:
Katie Couric kicked off this week in territory unfamiliar to her but familiar to the CBS Evening News: Her broadcast finished in third place Monday.
Last week, in the first few days after the former Today star’s much-hyped debut as anchor, Evening News dominated both NBC Nightly News and ABC World News in the ratings.
But on Monday — a big news day because of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 — viewers returned NBC Nightly News to its regular first-place berth. Nightly News drew 8.3 million viewers, followed by World News with 7.9 million and CBS with 7.5 million. (By comparison, when she premiered Sept. 5, Couric drew 13.6 million viewers.)
During the lead-up to Couric’s launch, executives from the three networks predicted viewers would sample the newscasts in coming weeks, that early ratings could fluctuate and that clear lines might not be drawn for months, because viewer habits change slowly.
“It’s just one day,” ABC World News producer Jon Banner says. “I think there will be sampling for some time to come.” NBC News had no comment.
CBS News president Sean McManus says he’s not concerned with Monday’s loss and plans no immediate changes on the broadcast, although some are probably inevitable because CBS is experimenting. “To start to jump to conclusions after one week I don’t think is very prudent,” McManus says.
An examination of the Evening News‘ content by network news analyst Andrew Tyndall shows the broadcast under Couric has featured less hard news than Nightly or World News and more features, interviews and commentary.
Tyndall says features, interviews and commentary took up 74 minutes on the Evening News last week, compared with 51 on Nightly News and 44 on World News. According to Tyndall, CBS’ newscast had 19 minutes of hard news, compared with 44 on NBC and 46 on ABC. Tyndall says he had expected interviews and commentary “to come at the expense of features,” but that it turned out they “were in addition to features. That was a surprise.”
Says McManus: “We have said that we want to offer more context and perspective to the news. If that’s not considered ‘hard news’ by critics, so be it.”