‘NBC Nightly News’ wins after Lester Holt leaps in

Ratings show "NBC Nightly News" with Lester Holt as the most watched evening newscast. Lester Holt is anchoring "NBC Nightly News"
Ratings show “NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt as the most watched evening newscast. Lester Holt is anchoring “NBC Nightly News”
(Virginia Sherwood / NBC NewsWire)

NBC news isn’t seeing any serious collateral ratings damage from suspending anchor Brian Williams over false statements he made about his Iraq reporting.

Ratings for the week of Feb. 9 -13 showed “NBC Nightly News” - with Lester Holt sitting in the anchor chair - as the most watched evening newscast, averaging 9.4 million viewers. “ABC World News Tonight with David Muir” was second with 9 million followed by “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” with 7.6 million.

NBC’s rating is in line with with its 2014-15 TV season average of 9.35 million viewers. The network had a lead of 587,000 viewers over ABC during that span.

NBC also narrowly topped ABC for the week in the 25 to 54 age group that advertisers want to reach when they buy commercial time on news programming.


It’s the first full week of Nielsen ratings data since Williams left the anchor chair on Feb. 7 as the controversy built over an erroneous report on his newscast that said he was on a Chinook helicopter that was hit and forced down by enemy fire during the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Williams also got his facts wrong when discussing the incident on “Late Show with David Letterman.” On Feb. 11, Williams was suspended for six months without pay as NBC reviews his reporting and decides on his future.

For Williams’ last week in the anchor chair - Feb. 2-6 - “Nightly News” led “World News” by 700,000 viewers. Those numbers might have been boosted by the afterglow of NBC’s record-setting telecast of Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. For the previous week of Jan. 26-30, the “Nightly News” lead over “World News” was 400,000, in line with the last week’s margin.

While it’s hard to draw a conclusion from a single week of ratings data, the figures have to be something of a temporary relief for the news division as Williams’ situation has been a public relations nightmare. The anchor’s plight even became fodder for comics appearing on Sunday’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live,” which drew a massive audience for NBC.

NBC News executives expected some fallout - either from fans who were upset Williams was gone, or viewers angry about his breach of journalistic trust.

Holt is a familiar face to “Nightly News” viewers. He is weekend anchor for broadcast and has been the regular substitute for Williams in recent years.

NBC News executives not authorized to speak publicly on the matter say Williams is still hopeful about making a return. Completion of the review being led by the head of NBC News’ investigations unit Richard Esposito, is expected to take several weeks.