The race for evening news viewers is getting tighter.
“ABC World News Tonight With David Muir” has topped the usual leader, “NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt,” in overall viewers in the first two weeks of the 2016-17 TV season.
It’s the first time that “ABC World News” has started the season with two straight weekly wins in overall viewers in 17 years, when Peter Jennings was anchor of the broadcast.
Muir averaged 8.27 million viewers during the week of Sept. 26-30, giving him an edge over Holt (7.89 million viewers), according to Nielsen data. “CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley” finished third for the week with 6.54 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News” did win the week in the 25-to-54 age group that advertisers prefer with 2.02 million viewers, finishing ahead of ABC (1.8 million) and CBS (1.53 million). NBC has led in the demographic in 61 of the last 62 weeks and widened its lead over ABC last week by 13%.
“NBC Nightly News” has been the most watched evening network newscast for the last 20 TV seasons. “ABC World News” finished second last season but saw its audience grow to its highest level in nine years.
Holt was not in the “Nightly News” anchor chair for several nights during the first week of the season and one night of the second week as he prepared to moderate the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Sept. 26. “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie substituted for Holt on those nights.
Holt was back in the chair on Sept. 27, a day after 84 million people watched the debate. His ratings dip later in the week may have been the residual effect of criticism by Trump aimed at his moderating.
Trump said right after the debate that Holt did “a great job” as moderator. But the Republican presidential nominee changed his tune after pundits concluded that he performed poorly at his first face-off with Clinton.
Holt’s Nielsen numbers declined late last week after press accounts in which Trump revised his assessment of the anchor’s treatment of him. On Wednesday, “ABC World News Tonight” led NBC by 171,000 viewers. The lead expanded to 876,000 viewers by Friday — a major lift over the previous Friday, when ABC’s won by 464,000.
NBC News had no comment on the ratings shift.
12:55 p.m.: This post was updated with additional Nielsen data.
This post was originally published at 9:15 a.m.