‘World News Tonight’ Claims Weekly Viewership Win

May 3, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In a week marked by a scrambled schedules due to President Bush’s last-minute scheduling — and rescheduling — of a live prime-time press conference, “ABC World News Tonight” claimed a viewership victory that, at the very least, requires an asterisk.

All Big Three network flagship newscasts had lower-than-usual clearances the week of April 25-29 because the Bush press conference cut into local news time in Western time zones, causing some stations to shelve the networks’ half-hours to preserve local coverage on the opening night of the May sweeps ratings period.

Only “ABC World News Tonight” was so disrupted that it could subtract Thursday from its final performance equation. Nielsen Media Research rules say coverage (ordinarily about 99 percent, indicating that the program could be seen in about 99 percent of the country) must dip by more than 10 percent to factor the night out. “World News” coverage was at 81 percent Thursday; “NBC Nightly News” coverage was 89 percent; and “CBS Evening News” was at 94 percent.

For its four nights the week ended April 29, “World News” averaged 8.89 million viewers, while “NBC Nightly News” came in second with 8.78 million and “CBS Evening News” averaged 6.85 million.

“If Thursday were knocked out [for all], we would have won the week,” said a “Nightly News” spokeswoman. An ABC News spokeswoman said that “World News” still would have won the tight race for viewers 25 to 54, the key news demographic.

Worth noting in this apples-to-oranges race: Even counting a diminished Thursday night, the average for “CBS Evening News” was up 9 percent from its People-Meter-era low of 6.11 million total viewers the previous week.