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Katie Stays Anchored in Week 1

Sep 11, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Katie-mania is subsiding, and the collective water-cooler fever has broken.

There was the perfect storm of publicity leading up to the Sept. 5 debut of the “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric.” Then there was the coast-to-coast flood of ink about her performance, her vision for the “Evening News,” her wardrobe choices and her invitation for viewers to suggest her sign-off line. Oh, yes, and her ratings.

Now CBS station executives are left to savor a week that lured viewers curious about Ms. Couric’s debut, and wonder how long the ratings bump will last.

In Atlanta, “CBS Evening News” generally ranks dead last in the time slot for Meredith-owned WGCL-TV. On the first two nights of Ms. Couric’s reign as the flagship anchor for CBS News, the performance of the network newscast improved from the usual 1.5 rating to a heady 4.2 average.

“If we can hang onto that it’s a huge improvement,” WGCL research director Jason Brown said.

ABC’s “World News With Charles Gibson” retained its first-place ranking in Atlanta.

In Dallas/Fort Worth, Ms. Couric’s show drew viewers to CBS-owned KTVT-TV.

“She’s kicking some butt,” said Steve Mauldin, the president and general manager of KTVT-TV and KXTA-TV. “CBS Evening News” regularly ranks first in that Texas market, but its powerful halo last week even seemed to boost his 5 p.m. local news by 5 percent.

Dallas/Forth Worth was one of the stops on Ms. Couric’s listening tour, on which she raised money for local charities and asked local women what they want in a network evening newscast.

“I think her visit here was a big help,” Mr. Mauldin said.

In Boston, where “World News” is regularly the most-watched network evening newscast, the CBS program took first place on Ms. Couric’s first night by about 3 ratings points. On the second night, “Evening News” had slipped to second, two-tenths of a point behind “World News.”

In New York City, where WCBS-TV has long struggled to get out of the ratings cellar, “Evening News” surpassed local favorite “World News” for two nights and then slipped down to second, with a very slim lead over “NBC Nightly News.”

Ms. Couric’s show outpaced the competition across the country beginning Tuesday night, scoring 13.6 million viewers. That number declined to 10.3 million the next night, according to fast national data from Nielsen Media Research. On Thursday, Ms. Couric drew 9.5 million.

That left her with a comfortable lead over ABC’s “World News,” which remained in second place all week.

Station and network executives hoping that audience fascination would translate into high ratings for Ms. Couric’s first prime-time special were disappointed. Ms. Couric’s Sept. 6, hour-long 9/11 anniversary special, complete with an interview with President Bush, drew less than 5.9 million viewers. That placed it at third in its time slot, some 200,000 viewers behind the ABC News summer series, “Primetime: Medical Mysteries.”