NEW YORK — ABC's "World News Tonight" is sealing its rise to the top of the evening news competition with a milestone victory that hits rival NBC where it hurts the most — in the wallet.
ABC has consistently beaten NBC's "Nightly News" for several months now among all viewers. But last week ABC won for only the second time in 136 weeks among 25-to-54-year-old viewers that advertisers are most anxious to reach. Start winning that demographic consistently, and dollars will flow.
David Muir's newscast has reached several milestones recently among all viewers, winning last season for the first time since Peter Jennings was the anchor 21 years ago. Its margin of victory in February was its largest in that month in 22 years, the Nielsen company said.
"It has been some time in the making, a very slow and steady climb," said Almin Karamehmedovic, the "World News Tonight" executive producer.
NBC spent several years atop the evening news ratings when Tom Brokaw was anchor, through Brian Williams and then when Lester Holt took over. But Holt lost his grip on the top spot, and the gap seems to be widening. Ironically, "Nightly News" may have been hurt by the Olympics: the newscast was moved to the mid-afternoon for two weeks on the West Coast, and that likely encouraged news viewers to try something else.
"David Muir really connects with the audience," Karamehmedovic said. "He's been a very careful and steadying force, both on the air and behind the scenes. We all understand this moment in the country and that it's more important to address the audience as a whole and not take sides."
Karamehmedovic said that he's not suggesting that rival newscasts are less objective.
While he understands the business importance of a demographic win, Karamehmedovic said that "we are really focusing on the audience as a whole."
NBC had no public comment on the ratings. Privately, NBC suggests that ABC was boosted last week by a particularly strong Monday caused by viewers who kept their TVs tuned to ABC after watching the Oscars the night before. ABC dismisses that theory, pointing out that besides Monday, each network won two of the remaining four days.
Among total viewers, "World News Tonight" averaged 9.2 million people last week. NBC had 8.3 million viewers and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.5 million.
Now that the Olympics and football are done and the prime-time focus is on regular programming, CBS won last week with an average of 7.2 million viewers. ABC had 5.3 million, NBC had 5.1 million, Fox had 3.1 million, Univision had 1.6 million, ION Television had 1.4 million, the CW had 1.2 million and Telemundo had 1.1 million.
Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.23 million viewers in prime time. MSNBC had 1.81 million, ESPN had 1.68 million, HGTV had 1.48 million and History had 1.29 million.
For the week of March 5-11, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 13.88 million; "NCIS," CBS, 12.92 million; "Young Sheldon," CBS, 12.55 million; "The Voice" (Monday), NBC, 11.63 million; "American Idol," ABC, 10.48 million; "Bull," CBS, 10.11 million; "The Voice" (Tuesday), NBC, 10.1 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 9.4 million; "Mom," CBS, 9.1 million; "Blue Bloods," CBS, 9.03 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.