After two weeks of victories for CBS and new anchor Katie Couric, NBC’s evening newscast returned to first place in viewership last week.
"NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" averaged 8.2 million viewers for the week ended Friday, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by Nielsen Media Research.
That compares with 7.7 million for "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric" and 7.6 million viewers for "ABC World News with Charles Gibson." NBC won each of the five nights.
All three newscasts finished the week with a 2.1 rating among adults 25-54, the key news demographic.
Williams’ boss, NBC Universal chairman Bob Wright, praised NBC’s No. 1 placing despite the hoopla surrounding Couric’s move to CBS.
"Brian is back where God wanted him to be, at No. 1," Wright joked Monday afternoon during an Advertising Week session at the Museum of Television & Radio.
Since Couric’s first newscast at CBS on September 5, "CBS Evening News" has made the evening news war a real race for the first time in more than a decade. Although the "CBS Evening News" is down 24% in viewership compared to its first week — while ABC is up 10% and NBC is up 15% — it’s also ahead of where it was a year ago.
Meanwhile, Wright said Monday that NBC wanted to keep Couric before she bolted for CBS in the spring. The network had been talking to her representatives about a possible syndication window, but Wright said that with the ratings-challenged experience of "The Jane Pauley Show," that idea seemed to cool in the past year. Wright said NBC had made no secret of the fact that it was going to go with Williams to replace Tom Brokaw when he retired in December 2004.
"She never really raised her hand to go in that direction," Wright said.
© Reuters 2006