Late last month Brian Williams’ Nightly News was viewed by an average of 10.1 million viewers each evening, beating not only Leno’s numbers, but that of every other NBC show in prime time all week. Reality series The Biggest Loser was closest at 9.7 million according to Nielsen data.
Williams also had the lead in the 25-to-54 age group, which is most important to news advertisers.
Both NBC’s Today show and Nightly News have increased leads in the ratings over second-place broadcasts on ABC News since each of those networks switched anchors in December.
“Having turned 50 this year, I suddenly woke up and I’m in the demographic that my parents were in when they were in the prime of watching an evening newscast,” Williams said.
Nightly News averaged more than 10 million viewers each week in January, and the show’s 11 percent margin over ABC before Sawyer took over swelled to 16 percent once she became anchor.
Williams is comfortable in his skin, and NBC has constructed a newscast around his strengths, said news consultant Andrew Tyndall, who studies the content of evening newscasts.
Williams said he believes his viewers believe that when they tune in they will be getting a broadcast without a lot of yelling and screaming, or advancing of agendas, something that has plagued cable news. “It’s as straight down the middle as they come and we struggle mightily to do that each day,” says Williams.
Williams had 3.24 million viewers in that age group to Sawyer’s 2.45 million and Couric’s 2.04 million. ABC News stressed Sawyer’s progress. In January, she was up 4 percent in total viewers and 5 percent in the 25-to-54 age group compared to the season-to-date average. In her first five weeks as anchor of World News, Sawyer has averaged 8.73 million viewers — a rise of 6 percent from the season average.
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