Lester Holt’s Nightly News program on NBC suffered another ratings loss last week, ranking behind ABC’s World News Tonight for the second week in a row following Holt’s widely criticized performance as moderator of the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on September 26.
World News Tonight edged out Nightly News for the week of Oct. 3, pulling in 8.449 million viewers, compared to NBC’s 8.446 million.
In the week following the debate, Nightly News was surpassed by ABC’s World News Tonight, hosted by David Muir, as the highest-rated evening news program. ABC averaged 8.27 million viewers for the week of Sept. 26-30, compared to NBC’s 7.89 million.
The ratings loss is a major embarrassment for NBC and Nightly News, which just celebrated its 20th season as the highest-rated program among all demos. It is also a stunning upset for ABC and World News Tonight, which hasn’t won the first two weeks of the “TV season” since 1999-2000.
Following compulsive liar Brian Williams’ ouster as Nightly News anchor, the largely unknown Holt, the “accidental anchor”, had been expected to fall behind the better established Muir in the ratings. But much to ABC’s consternation, that didn’t happen, and heading into the debate Holt appeared to have established himself comfortably as the pre-eminent evening news anchor.
It now appears that Holt may have gravely erred in going after Trump in the debate, abdicating his rule of the evening news by alienating Trump supporters.
Friday, Sept. 30, marked ABC’s largest single-day ratings win over NBC in almost a year, with World News Tonight pulling in 876,000 more viewers than Nightly News.
The bulk of NBC’s losses were among older viewers. NBC continues to beat ABC in the so-called “news demo” of adults ages 25-54, but is losing in terms of total viewers, presumably because older Americans, who are more likely to support Trump, are tuning out.
Holt’s gathering ratings fiasco is yet another black eye for NBC News, which is still stinging from Matt Lauer’s shambolic performance moderating a two-candidate forum on national security last month. Speculation is growing within the TV business that embattled NBC News President Deborah Turness will soon have to fall on her sword and return to England from whence she came. Her boss, 69 year old NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, notorious for once telling the New York Times that “I am America’s news leader”, certainly has no intention of taking any responsibility.
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