On Friday, “Nightly News” with Brian Williams‘ preliminary ratings were down 36 percent in the coveted A25-54 demo compared to the previous week’s average as controversy swirled around the anchor.
“World News Tonight” with David Muir beat “Nightly” in total viewers and the younger demo: 8,461,000 viewers vs 7,979,000 viewers; 2,008,000 vs. 1,701,000 demo viewers.
Although the numbers are preliminary (fast affiliate numbers) and only for one day, they show the controversy surrounding Williams has affected his show in the short term.
“Nightly” has beaten “WNT” for 280 consecutive weeks in total viewers and four consecutive weeks in the demo, so how the full week’s numbers play out might have an impact on Williams’ fate as NBC News executives conduct an internal review on his reporting in Iraq and elsewhere.
It is important to note that Williams’ competitors also dipped: ABC was down 16 percent and CBS down 17 percent compared to the previous week’s average.
On Wednesday, Williams apologized on-air for the “mistake” of conflating being on a helicopter that was shot down by RPG fire during the initial invasion in Iraq vs. being on a trailing helicopter that didn’t get hit.
He anchored Thursday and Friday and was center stage as a prominent story in the news cycle last week. CNN, Fox, MSNBC and broadcast networks have covered the Williams controversy, with some of those dubbing it a “scandal” and “credibility crisis.”
After days of heavy press coverage, Williams announced on Saturday that he’s stepping away from anchoring for “several days.” On Sunday, he canceled his appearance on David Letterman scheduled for Thursday.
Weekend anchor Lester Holt will anchor in Williams’ stead.