NEW YORK (AP) — NBC's "Nightly News" lost the weekly ratings competition for the first time since 2009 — 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.
The "CBS Evening News" averaged 6.6 million viewers last week.
In prime-time last week, the Easter Sunday premiere of "A.D., The Bible Continues" on NBC was a Top Ten show with 9.7 million viewers. That was, however, a million viewers less than the original "The Bible" miniseries, also produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, had on the History network last year.
Also on Easter, ABC's traditional airing of the movie "The Ten Commandments" reached 6.9 million viewers, Nielsen said.
CBS won the week in prime-time, averaging 8.1 million viewers. ABC had 6.4 million, and won among 18-to-49-year-old viewers. NBC had 5.8 million, Fox had 3.2 million, Univision had 2.6 million, Telemundo had 1.5 million, the CW had 1.4 million and ION Television had 1 million.
TBS, behind strong ratings for the NCAA men's Final Four last weekend, led the cable networks with a prime-time average of 3.6 million viewers. USA had 1.71 million, TNT had 1.67 million, Fox News Channel had 1.65 million and the Disney Channel had 1.59 million.
For the week of March 30-April 5, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NCAA Final Four: Wisconsin vs. Kentucky, TBS, 16.8 million; "NCIS," CBS, 16.6 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 13.89 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 13.76 million; "The Voice" (Monday), NBC, 11.87 million; "NCAA Studio Show," TBS, 11.57 million; NCAA Final Four: Duke vs. Michigan St., TBS, 11.14 million; "Blue Bloods," CBS, 10.7 million; "NCAA Post-Game Show," TBS, 9.71 million; "A.D., The Bible Continues," NBC, 9.68 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.