Avid viewing of the O.J. Simpson trial on CNN and Court TV is cutting into the ratings for the nightly newscasts on the three major television networks.
Since the week of Dec. 26, "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" is down 18%, ABC's "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" is down 9% and "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather and Connie Chung" is down 15% compared to the same period a year ago.
The audiences for CNN and Court TV, which are providing gavel-to-gavel coverage nationwide, are larger than usual, with some of the highest ratings between 5:30 and 7 p.m. EST, when network newscasts are on.
"It looks like a lot of people are getting home from work and checking out the trial coverage," one CNN executive said.
David Poltrack, executive vice president for research at CBS, agreed that the drop in ratings is largely attributable to the trial.
"The network newscasts essentially are down what CNN and Court TV are up in the ratings," he said. "O.J. viewers are news viewers, and for news junkies, the live coverage has become a soap opera--with ratings that are just as reliable as a soap opera."