Key news ratings trends remained stable in the days since the long-awaited, thoroughly researched passing of the “NBC Nightly News” anchor torch from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams.
Mr. Brokaw’s last night as anchor, Dec.1, garnered 15.36 million viewers, the newscast’s biggest audience in nearly eight years, according to Nielsen Media Research.
On the relatively slow news nights of Dec. 6-8, all three network flagship newscasts experienced a slight downward trend as the week wore on, according to Nielsen data from the 56 metered markets. “Nightly” was in its usual No. 1 position with a margin of at least 0.4 ratings point over “ABC World News Tonight” and “CBS Evening News” was in distant third place. In another familiar pattern, “World News” won in eight of the top 10 markets.
“I think it is too early to draw any big, sweeping conclusions,” said “Nightly” executive producer Steve Capus. “We need to launch with Brian and just get a long run in our rearview mirror before we really take a sense of where we are.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Capus said, “This reaffirms a couple of things we always felt, which is that people are comfortable with Brian. They’ve known who he is. He’s filled in for Tom for more than 10 years now. And the rest of the team Brian fronts is still here.”
At ABC, “World News With Peter Jennings” executive producer Jon Banner tipped his hat to the “Nightly” transition team. “They did a very good job. They promoted that broadcast as heavily as they do the Olympics.”
Still, he said, “We have been saying, although I don’t think it has been reported, that no one should expect any significant change anytime soon.”
Meanwhile, on other news ratings fronts:
The 15-week-old weekend “GMA” averaged 1.977 million viewers on Saturdays and 1.58 million on Sundays in November. The hour-long show, which has posted bigger audiences than “Early Show” on five Saturdays, is likely to get a boost effective Dec. 18, when it is added to the weekend lineups of the 12 ABC affiliates owned by Hearst-Argyle Television and another ABC affiliate managed by Hearst-Argyle.
“The people of `Good Morning America’ have done an excellent job of building that show’s presence as a source of news and information, and the weekend edition will be a strong supplement to the local weekend newscasts on our ABC stations,” said David Barrett, president and CEO of Hearst-Argyle Television.
The Hearst-Argyle stations will extend the reach of weekend “GMA,” which launched with almost 80 percent clearance, by 8.1 percent.