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ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’ Ends ‘NBC Nightly News’ Record Run – Update

UPDATED, 8:49 AM: Almin Karamehmedovic, Executive Producer of ABC’s World News Tonight With David Muir, has released a statement trumpeting the newscast’s first win in years over NBC Nightly News: “I’m so proud of David and this incredible team. They’ve been intently focused on the viewers from the moment we started and we so appreciate they are responding. There is still so much work to do.”

PREVIOUSLY, 6:37 AM: ABC’s World News Tonight has snapped NBC Nightly News’ streak of 288 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in total viewers.

ABC’s newscast logged 7.99 million viewers to NBC’s 7.91 mil. World News Tonight also took the news demo and 18-49 for the week of March 30, which was the first in awhile in which NBC was not able to meld in repeat numbers of its newscast from overnight replays.

It’s the first time in more than seven years that ABC’s newscast has won all three metrics. Its news-demo win was its 14th this season to date, marking the most wins at this point in a TV season in nearly two decades. World News Tonight won all five nights in the news demo.

NBC News will continue repeating the newscast in 10 markets in the wee hours, but those numbers no longer will be counted toward the show’s weekly average.

state of emergency featured imageAcknowledging the snap, NBC said in a statement: “Lester Holt has led NBC Nightly News to great success over the past two months, and we continue to be pleased with his strong performance during this time. We’re proud of the caliber of our work and remain committed to delivering the highest-quality broadcast to our audience every night.”

An insider said the news division expected ratings volatility while Holt stepped in for Nightly News longtime anchor Brian Williams, who was suspended while NBC investigated claims he has made about various news events he’s covered for the news division.

The newscast ratings race had become very tight even while Williams was still anchoring, and before Stars & Stripes published its article in which soldiers claimed Williams had made false statements about his experience in a helicopter attack during the early days of the Iraq War. World News Tonight beat Nightly News with some consistency in the new demo while Williams still was anchoring, dating back to the week of June 30, 2014, when Diane Sawyer was wrapping up her tenure as anchor of the ABC newscast.

When David Muir took over as World News Tonight anchor on Labor Day week, he won that week ABC News logoin the demo and continued to win for eight more consecutive weeks. But, shortly before Williams’ suspension, NBC Nightly News had regained the demo, winning two months straight among 25-54 year olds (and 11 of 14 weeks by the time of Williams signing off). In total viewers, NBC Nightly News had been delivering its best start to a season since 2005. For the first five weeks of the year, with Williams anchoring, Nightly News averaged leads over ABC of 515,000 total viewers, 175,000 news-demo viewers and 232,000 in 18-49.

For the week, ABC’s newscast clocked 1.95 million viewers to NBC’s 1.79 million. CBS Evening News logged 1.46 million news-demo viewers, out of a total of 6.58 million.

The previous week, aka NBC Nightly News‘ final week of Wee Hour Viewer Melding, the broadcast averaged 8.71 million viewers, leading ABC’s World News Tonight by 112,000 viewers (and CBS Evening News by 1.97 mil).

Neither NBC nor Nielsen ever detailed exactly how many viewers were added to the network’s newscast by factoring in those pre-dawn repeats of NBC Nightly News. 

(Even with those additional viewers, NBC logged its lowest first quarter in the news demo since at NBC News logo least Nielsen began tracking with electronic records in 1991 and lowest in total viewers since 2013. Season to date, NBC’s newscast leads ABC’s by 520,000 viewers and CBS by 1.92 million. Its lead over ABC in the news demo is a mere 29,000 viewers (453,000 ahead of CBS), and its edge in the younger demo is 130,000 over ABC (and 416,000 over CBS).

NBC News no longer is able to factor those wee-hour reruns of its Nightly News into the broadcast ratings as of this week because media buyers asked the network to stop running their clients’ ads in those rebroadcasts. Those rebroadcasts on some NBC affiliate stations did not include national ads. Lacking national spots, Nielsen does not rate the broadcasts, which cannot then be merged into the franchise’s ratings.

ABC News had been all set to celebrate finally breaking Nightly News’ 285-week total-viewer winning streak a few weeks ago, only to have its party canceled when NBC’s final stats dropped with those additional viewers factored in. Surprised by the additional eyeballs, ABC fell behind NBC, by just 11,000 viewers, and had to scrub its victory announcement.

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