Lester Holt outstripped David Muir’s virtual audience with Pope Francis last night in preliminary ratingsabc_pope_03_lb_150831_16x9_992.  Holt-anchored NBC Nightly News clocked a timeslot affiliate stat of 8.51 million viewers, besting ABC World News Tonight (7.65M) which Muir anchored from the Vatican, having snagged a very big “get” on the eve of his his first anniversary as host of the newscast. The evening newscast included portions of a Muir-moderated satellite audience with Pope Francis, in which the pope spoke from the Vatican with residents in three U.S. cities. (The virtual audience with Pope Francis will be part of an ABC News special edition of 20/20 this Friday, called Pope Francis And The People.)

Holt’s NBC newscast also came in ahead of CBS Evening News (6.7M) in the early timeslot affiliate data.

It was the same early-stats story in the news demo, where Holt’s newscast clocked 2.15 million viewers, ahead of ABC’s 1.82M and CBS’s 1.46M.

These stats are timeslot-based; typically, final stats adjust upward for all three news programs, but by varying degrees. Earlier today, final stats for last week showed Nightly News finishing No. 1 across the board with Holt’s biggest margins relative to ABC since June.