NBC News changed the name of every broadcast of Lester Holt’s newscast last week, to NBC Nitely News. Not on the screen of course, because that would be poor spelling. But in Nielsen’s books, so none of NBC News’ evening newscasts would be included in Nightly News’ season average. In one of those incredible coincidences, NBC Nightly News is in a super-hot ratings competition with ABC’s World News Tonight for the season in the ratings.
NBC News can’t take credit for this brilliant ratings stunt; CBS’ Face the Nation did similar for the entire month of August in 2016, happily goosing that program’s ratings. And, ABC’s Good Morning America did same the week of December 26, 2011.
In NBC’s defense, due to sports, only one day last week would all three of the broadcast evening newscasts have been rated. NBC was expected to re-title its two NHL nights, Wednesday and Friday. ABC was expected to re-title its two NBA nights: Wednesday and Friday. But NBC News decided to go whole hog, re-titling Wednesday and Friday too, as well as Tuesday, for a full week of Nitely which, just guessing, is a show with unimpressive ratings; NBC having previously aired Nitely, instead of Nightly, on May 26 of this year.
Comparable week last year also saw ABC and NBC each taking their newscasts off the books on two nights, when their newscasts ran out of timeslot in a swath of the country due to sports broadcasts. But last year NBC News did not retitle Nightly for the entire week. And, if you look at that same week last year, you’ll see NBC Nightly News did not win the week. NBC has won 96 of 97 weeks. That same week last year was the only week it lost.
“Due to sports all three evening newscasts were rated on the same day only once last week: Tuesday evening,” NBC News said in a statement when contacted for comment about last week’s spelling challenged newscast. “One head-to-head night does not accurately reflect an entire week of ratings, so Nightly News was retitled for the entire week.”
Had NBC not renamed Nightly on its non-sports nights, ABC’s newscast was leading NBC’s by 339K viewers for the week, through Thursday.