NBC keeps news ratings leads

CBS' 'Early Show' sees double-digit year-to-year growth

NEW YORK -- NBC heads into the final days of 2008 with ratings leads for its morning and evening newscasts, in contrast with the network's fortunes in primetime. And for the first time in a long while, CBS' news ratings might be looking up.

"NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" will finish the year as the winner among the three major-network evening newscasts, showing year-over-year increases in viewership and the adults 25-54 demographic. In the morning, NBC's "Today" also is the leader in viewership and the demo. The 2008 ratings, released by Nielsen, run through Dec. 23. Last week's holiday ratings are set to be released Tuesday

Most newscasts enjoyed lifted ratings this year because of interest in the presidential election and other big stories. "NBC Nightly News" also was helped by the helming of former executive producer Alexandra Wallace, who left the show recently to become NBC News' second in command. And CBS, which reported a ratings loss on the year, showed strength for "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric" toward year's end.

"NBC Nightly News" has averaged 8.3 million viewers on the year, up 3% compared with 2007. It also is up 6% in the demo to retain first place. Second-place ABC has averaged 8.1 million viewers and a 2.1 in adults 25-54, down 3% in viewers and down 5% in the demo. The "CBS Evening News" averaged 6.1 million viewers and a 1.5 in 25-54, down 5% year to year in both viewership and the demo.

During the last part of the year, though, Couric's newscast might be capitalizing on her buzzworthy interviews with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. "CBS Evening News" has logged four consecutive weeks of ratings gains and, during the week ending Dec. 21, averaged 7.4 million viewers -- more than a half-million viewers closer to "NBC Nightly News" than during the year-earlier week.

Couric's former show, "Today," remains on top in the morning, but CBS' "The Early Show" is showing ratings strength with double-digit increases compared with a year earlier.

"Today" has averaged 6 million viewers and a 2.2 in adults 25-54, up 6% in viewers compared with 2007 and flat in the demo. ABC's second-place "Good Morning America" has averaged 4.9 million viewers and a 1.7 in 25-54, up 1% in viewers and flat in the demo.

Perennial third-place finisher "Early Show" has logged the highest increases with 3.5 million viewers, up 20% compared with 2007, and a 1.3 in adults 25-54, up 30%. The show also has seen a 23% increase in women 25-54 and 9% increase in women 18-49 under new executive producer Zev Shalev.