ABC's 'World News Tonight' Snaps NBC's 'Nightly News' 288-Week Winning Streak

David Muir ABC News Anchor Desk - H 2014
ABC/Heidi Gutman

David Muir ABC News Anchor Desk - H 2014

After 288 consecutive weeks as the most-watched of the three broadcast evening newscasts, NBC Nightly News has fallen to ABC's World News Tonight. It is Nightly's first total viewer loss since September 2009 and comes as anchor Brian Williams remains on a six-month suspension for embellishing his proximity to danger during a 2003 reporting trip to Iraq.

ABC's World News Tonight with David Muir bested Nightly News by 84,000 viewers for the week ending April 3, according to Nielsen. World News pulled in 7.997 million viewers to Nightly's 7.913 million. Lester Holt is currently filling in for Williams.

“Lester Holt has led NBC Nightly News to great success over the past two months, and we continue to be pleased with his strong performance during this time," an NBC News spokesperson said in a statement. "We’re proud of the caliber of our work and remain committed to delivering the highest quality broadcast for our audience every night.”

Nightly is still ahead for the season, with an average of 9.2 million total viewers compared with ABC's 9.1 million. But Muir's broadcast has already picked off 14 weeks among viewers 25-54, the demographic upon which most news programming is sold to advertisers. World News also won the week among that demo, with 1.95 million viewers compared with NBC's 1.79 million.

For ABC News and Muir — who took over the broadcast from Diane Sawyer last September — the win is an important milestone, although it will have no impact on the shows' immediate financial picture. That would only happen if Muir continues to best Nightly. But the ABC broadcast is having its best season in years, adding more than half a million viewers and winning the month of November (a so-called sweeps month, when advertising rates are set) in the 25-54 demo for the first time in 18 years. And Muir has brought his love of field reporting to the newscast, anchoring from Havana, Cuba, and the Syrian border. 

It's also unclear what impact, if any, ABC's ratings win will have on Holt's future on Nightly. Many at NBC News continue to advocate for the well-liked veteran anchor, who has been a stabilizing force on the broadcast and in a news division rocked by a series of missteps.

Andrew Lack officially assumed the chairmanship of NBC News and MSNBC only yesterday. His task will be to set Nightly's course for the future. And though Lack is known to have a warm relationship with Williams, insiders note that he is very carefully and deliberately approaching that thorny issue.