ABC breaks NBC’s win streak in evening news

By David Bauder , AP

NEW YORK –NBC’s ��Nightly News�� lost the weekly ratings competition for the first time since 2009 �X and for the first time since anchor Brian Williams was suspended in February for telling a false story about his reporting from the Iraq War.

ABC’s ��World News Tonight�� with David Muir averaged 8 million viewers last week, or 84,000 more than NBC’s newscast, with Lester Holt as the substitute anchor. NBC had won 288 consecutive weeks in the ratings.

NBC’s defeat came in Holt’s seventh week filling in for Williams, who was suspended for six months, with NBC learning about it the same day its executives read a dispiriting Vanity Fair article about problems at the news division over the past two years. NBC is conducting an internal investigation into other potentially false statements by Williams and there’s been no word on when, or if, the network’s report will be publicly released.

During Holt’s seven weeks, ��Nightly News�� has maintained an average 312,000-viewer lead over ABC, Nielsen said. Since the beginning of the television season last September until he was suspended, Williams’ margin over ABC was 597,000 viewers. Among the 25-to-54-year-old demographic considered most valuable to advertisers in news programming, Williams’ lead of 38,000 viewers has slipped to 5,000, Nielsen said.

Last week was also the first time in two months that NBC didn’t count viewers of a middle-of-the-night rerun of ��Nightly News�� in some small markets across the country in its ratings. ABC was infuriated by the ratings sleight of hand, which padded the NBC ratings with a handful of insomniacs, and NBC’s winning streak likely would have ended two weeks ago without these additional viewers. NBC stopped the practice, legal under Nielsen’s rules, because some advertisers didn’t want their commercials shown then.

NBC News spokeswoman Erika Masonhall said the network continues to be pleased with Holt’s strong performance during Williams’ suspension. ��We’re proud of the caliber of our work and remain committed to delivering the highest quality broadcast for our audience every night,�� she said.