‘NBC Nightly News,’ ‘World News Tonight’ Get Strong Ratings

Apr 27, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The week of April 18-22 found ABC’s “World News Tonight” keeping the ratings race close with “NBC Nightly News,” while “CBS Evening News” registered its lowest number of total viewers since at least 1987, when ratings were collected by People Meters for the first time.

According to data from Nielsen Media Research, “NBC Nightly News” averaged 8.63 million viewers, while “ABC World News Tonight” averaged 8.48 million. In the key news group of 25- to 54-year-old viewers, “Nightly” averaged 2.85 million viewers compared with 2.78 million viewers for “World News.”

“Evening News” averaged 6.11 million total viewers and nearly 2 million in the 25-54 category.

Since Dan Rather ended his 24 years at the “Evening News” anchor desk in early March, Bob Schieffer has been the interim anchor.

An “Evening News” spokeswoman said: “Our focus right now is on the content of the broadcast. We realize it will take time for the audience to respond to the changes we’re making. The journalism is strong, the spirit is fresh and the initial reaction has been very positive.”

Meanwhile, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, in an appearance at a casual forum at Harvard Monday, said his division is “well on our way” to healing after ‘Memogate,’ the September 2004 scandal over a “60 Minutes II” story by Mr. Rather using still unauthenticated documents about President Bush’s military service. In addition to Mr. Rather stepping down from “Evening News” a year early, four staffers involved with the story were forced to leave CBS News.

While there has been talk about changing formats on “Evening News,” Mr. Heyward has ruled out the possibility of installing anchors at desks in more than one city.

Ratings may be lagging, but critics are praising the more conversational tone and format being employed by Mr. Schieffer and “Evening News” Executive Producer Jim Murphy.

Mr. Schieffer, 68, has made clear recently that he is enjoying doing double duty–he commutes from New York to Washington, D.C., each weekend to moderate “Face the Nation”–but he has recently taken to reminding people he still plans to retire at age 70.