Tom Brokaw’s last night as anchor of “NBC Nightly News” garnered the newscast’s biggest audience since Jan. 16, 1997. According to fast national data from Nielsen Media Research, 15.36 million people tuned in Dec. 1.
On Dec. 2, Brian Williams, who had been Mr. Brokaw’s heir apparent for a decade, attracted 11.68 million viewers, up 5 percent from “Nightly’s” November average, to start his era in the flagship newscast competition in first place.
It appeared that most of the sampling of “Nightly” on Thursday might have been by regular viewers of “ABC World News Tonight,” whose audience of 9.30 million viewers was down 7 percent compared with its season-to-date average of 10.02 million viewers. “CBS Evening News”‘ 7.460 million viewers Thursday was down 3 percent from its season-to-date average of 7.72 million viewers.
Mr. Brokaw signed off after 21 years as the sole anchor and managing editor of “Nightly News” with a few remarks that included thanks to his viewers in general and to those he characterized as “The Greatest Generation” in his best-selling books.
“Thanks to all that I have learned from you. That’s been my richest reward,” Mr. Brokaw said. “You’ll see Brian Williams here tomorrow night, and I’ll see you along the way.”
Mr. Williams ended the first newscast that carried his name by saying in part: “Tonight a new era begins on this broadcast. But not without a word about the era that ended last night, when our friend, mentor and leader signed off after more than two decades on this broadcast. He has allowed me to sit in this chair in his absence for the last 10 years. And now, hopefully, many years more.
“For those of us fortunate enough to have shared a newsroom, and a calling, with Tom Brokaw, it was not quite the same today. While we will see him around here, and so will you, after the most carefully planned vacation in American history, he leaves us as stewards of the broadcast he presided over and shaped on a daily basis. It’s now our job from this day forward to endeavor each evening to put the finest work of this organization on the air. We can do that best by working harder than anyone else, just the way Tom did for so many years,” Mr. Williams said.
Mr. Brokaw will return to do special projects for NBC News after a vacation.