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It’s not uncommon for the network evening newscasts to remove certain episodes from the weekly average when they know viewing will be below average. That often happens on holidays or when sports pre-empts the newscasts in many markets. But it’s rare when a network evening newscast takes itself out of the average for an entire week, which is what NBC News did with its flagship Nightly News last week.
The network retitled the broadcast calling it NBC Nitely News, which removes it from the Nielsen average.
Last week, NBC carried the Stanley Cup Finals on two weeknights–Monday and Thursday–which would have meant below-average carriage and viewership nationally. But, similarly, ABC carried the NBA Finals on Wednesday and Friday. ABC will remove just those days, not the full week, from their average. So when the ratings come out in the morning, CBS Evening News will be based on 5 days and ABC’s World News Tonight on 3 days. And while Nielsen will provide viewership totals for NBC Nightly News in their weekly ratings release tomorrow, it won’t count toward NBC’s season average.
Retitling is nothing new. Last August, Face the Nation removed itself from the Sunday show average for the entire month. And during the last week of December, 2011 (as it is closing the gap with the Today show) Good Morning America took itself out of the weekly average. Nightly News also removed its May 26 episode from the average, that was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Nightly won that week in both viewers and the demo, but if it had been based on 5 days, ABC would’ve won the week with a 264,000-viewer lead.
Why is NBC doing this? We asked, and an NBC News spokesperson says, “Due to sports, all three evening newscasts were rated on the same day only once last week: Tuesday evening. One head-to-head night does not accurately reflect an entire week of ratings, so Nightly News was retitled for the full week.”
But another reason is that NBC Nightly News, while still holding the lead in the A25-54 demo, is in a battle for first place among total viewers with ABC’s World News Tonight.
ABC is leading NBC by a slim 21,000 viewers season-to-date. It’s the first time in 21 years that ABC has had the lead over NBC at this point in the season. The current 2016-2017 season ends in September.