For the first full week without Brian Williams as anchor, the NBC Nightly News last week actually saw a rise in the ratings. It averaged around 10.1 million viewers, which marks an increase of 7% over the week prior with Williams around. It finished the week, with Lester Holt as the anchor, both #1 in total viewers and also in the 18-49 demographic. ABC did have the edge in the 25-54 demo, which is considered to be the main one for news programs.
Does this mean that NBC would consider just dropping Brian altogether? We wouldn’t go that far yet. Anytime that you have a week following some sort of scandal, ratings almost always tend to rise as viewer curiosity is significantly higher than it ever was before. With this in mind, we certainly expected the show to fare well this past week.
The real test for Holt, and for NBC while Williams remains suspended, is what happens three or four weeks from now when much of this discussion drifts off of the front page. If Holt can maintain solid numbers, that is a sign to the network that they really do not need Williams around still to draw big numbers. Even if they do bring Brian back, there is no guarantee that he will get the heavy viewer count they once did. While news shows get that “scandal bump” as we mentioned, they also have a viewership that puts a lot of stock on legitimacy. If some feel they have lost trust in Williams, they will just get their news elsewhere.
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