Just as curious viewers tuned in to Katie Couric's first broadcast of the "CBS Evening News," so did they for her replacement on NBC's "Today."
Meredith Vieira's debut on the morning show drew 6.9 million viewers Wednesday, a good deal more than "Today's" recent average and way ahead of its closest competitor, ABC's "Good Morning America." In fact, it was the biggest audience for the show since Couric left at the end of May.
That farewell broadcast brought in about 8.4 million viewers.
Vieira was hired at "Today" in May after nine seasons as a co-host of ABC's daytime talk show "The View." She joked on Wednesday's show that sitting next to co-anchor Matt Lauer was like "sitting next to the cutest guy" in high school.
Her inaugural show also pushed "Today" to its biggest lead over "Good Morning America" in two years (Couric's final day excluded). The ABC show drew 4.4 million viewers on Wednesday.
By comparison, "Today" drew an average of 5.8 million viewers per day last week, and "GMA" clocked in at 4.6 million. CBS' "Early Show" averaged 2.7 million.
As for Couric herself, ratings for the "CBS Evening News" have returned to earth some after her big debut on Sept. 5. On Monday, the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, CBS' newscast was back in third place, looking up at leader NBC and second-place ABC.
The race was, however, a good deal tighter than it has been in the past, with fewer than a million viewers separating the "NBC Nightly News" (8.27 million) and the "CBS Evening News" (7.49 million). ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson" pretty well split the difference with 7.87 million viewers.