David Muir, Lester Holt in see-saw battle for evening-news viewers

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David Muir on His 'Whirlwind' Ride as 'World News Tonight' Anchor

By BRIAN STEINBERG, Variety.com

The scorched-earth evening-news skirmish between ABC and NBC continues unabated.

There's no question that ABC's "World News Tonight" has taken the evening-news lead from NBC's "Nightly News,:" which the latter dominated for years. But just when one might think ABC's David Muir ought to do a victory dance, NBC's Lester Holt gets back in the fight.

ABC continued to win the audience coveted by advertisers in the most recent five-day period measured by Nielsen, but NBC's evening newscast was watched by more viewers overall, the first time that NBC has claimed those bragging rights since the week of March 23.

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David Muir, Lester Holt in see-saw battle for evening-news viewers
In this image released by ABC News, anchor David Muir from "World News Tonight with David Muir," appears on the set in New York. ABC's "World News" beat NBC's "Nightly News" in viewership last week, only a month after David Muir took over as anchor from Diane Sawyer. NBC's Brian Williams-led newscast had ruled for 263 consecutive weeks, a streak that began in September 2009, and for 310 of the past 311 weeks. Last week ABC's broadcast averaged 8.42 million viewers, while NBC had 8.25 million, the Nielsen company said. (AP Photo/ABC, Lorenzo Bevilaqua)
David Muir attends A Celebration of Barbara Walters at the Four Seasons Restaurant on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
This image released by ABC News shows, from left, David Muir, George Stephanopoulos, Diane Sawyer and ABC News President James Goldston on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in New York. Sawyer is stepping down as its evening news anchor, to be replaced by David Muir. The network said Sawyer will concentrate on interviews and specials. During her tenure, ABC’s “World News” was a steady second to Brian Williams at NBC, although the ABC broadcast has made gains among younger viewers. ABC said George Stephanopoulos will take on a new role as chief anchor for live news events. (AP Photo/ABC, Heidi Gutman)
ABC News anchor David Muir speaks before retired boxing champion Muhammad Ali received the Liberty Medal during a ceremony at the National Constitution Center, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, in Philadelphia. The honor is given annually to an individual who displays courage and conviction while striving to secure liberty for people worldwide. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - The GMA team gets soaked taking the Ice Bucket Challenge, promoting awareness of ALS, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 8/15/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Fred Lee/ABC via Getty Images) DAVID MUIR
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 1: Amy Robach, David Muir host of Good Morning America in New York.Credit:RW/MediaPunch/IPX
BOSTON - AUGUST 26: David Muir, who will replace Diane Sawyer at ABC, filmed promos with J.C. Monahan, of WCVB's Chronicle, along the waterfront in Boston on August 26, 2014. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 29: (L-R) Amy Robach, Ginger Zee, Lara Spencer, David Muir, and Brad Paisley speak on stage during ABC's 'Good Morning America' at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on August 29, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 22: (L-R) Robin Roberts, David Muir, and Amy Robach dance on stage while the band Magic! performs on ABC's 'Good Morning America' at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on August 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15: (L-R) Ginger Zee, David Muir, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Amy Robach, Lara Spencer, and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line visit ABC's 'Good Morning America' at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on August 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: (L-R) President of ABC News James Goldston, Barbara Walters, ABC News anchor David Muir and Chairman of the Walt Disney Company Bob Iger attend the 'Barbara Walters Building' ABC News Headquarters Dedication Ceremony on May 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: (L-R) ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer; ABC News anchor David Muir and ABC 'Good Morning America' anchor Robin Roberts attend the dedication ceremony as ABC News headquarters in New York is proclaimed 'The Barbara Walters Building' ABC News Headquarters Dedication Ceremony on May 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
ABC NEWS - ABC News covers the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, 8/28/12, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) DAVID MUIR, DIANE SAWYER
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 03: Journalist David Muir (R) and guest attend the Bloomberg & Vanity Fair cocktail reception following the 2014 WHCA Dinner at Villa Firenze on May 3, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/VF14/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: David Muir visits The Empire State Building on April 24, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: David Muir visits The Empire State Building on April 24, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: (L-R) Journalist David Muir, Kelly Ripa, President of Disney/ABC Anne Sweeney, Dean at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications Lorraine Branham and Michael Strahan attend the 2013 Newhouse Mirror Awards Luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 5, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Journalist David Muir attends the 2013 Newhouse Mirror Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 5, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
THE VIEW - (airs 1.25.13) ABC News’ David Muir guest co-hosts “Guy Day Friday”; Drew Barrymore introduces her new makeup line, “Flower”; “Real Life Hot Topics” with a brother and sister from Iowa, separated as children, placed into foster care 65 years ago and recently reunited through Facebook. 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 noon, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/Disney-ABC via Getty Images) WHOOPI GOLDBERG, JOY BEHAR, DAVID MUIR, SHERRI SHEPHERD, ELISABETH HASSELBECK
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige are guests on 'Good Morning America,' 1/28/13, airing on the ABc Televsion Network. (Photo by Fred Lee/ABC via Getty Images) DAVID MUIR, ELIZABETH VARGAS, GEORGE STEPHAOPOULOS, LARA SPENCER, SAM CHAMPION
ABC NEWS - ABC News' David Muir follows the 2012 Republican Race from Manchester, New Hampshire. Coverage of the election airs on all ABC News Platforms. (Photo by Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty Images)DAVID MUIR
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Rocco DiSpirito shares easy recipes to help you slim down on 'Good Morning America,' 7/19/11 on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images)DAVID MUIR, ROCCO DISPIRITO
ABC NEWS - From London, ABC News broadcasts live from Media Village at Buckingham Palace, 4/29/11, as viewers are taken inside the Royal Wedding with comprehensive coverage across all ABC News platforms.(Photo by Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty Images)DAVID MUIR, DIANE SAWYER, BARBARA WALTERS
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - David Muir operates the GMA Smart Screen on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 3/21/11. GM11 (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)DAVID MUIR
NEW YORK - AUGUST 21: (L-R) Anchors Diane Sawyer and David Muir with performer Reba McEntire (middle) attend ABC's 'Good Morning America' at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on August 21, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Janette Pellegrini/WireImage)
ABC World News weekend anchor David Muir and model Petra Nemcova attend the 10th Annual Women Who Care luncheon benefitting United Cerebral Palsy of New York City at Cipriani 42nd Street on Thursday, May 5, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 22: David Muir (L) and Nasri Atweh of the band Magic! jump on stage during ABC's 'Good Morning America' at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on August 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - JUNE 25: ABC News today, June 25, 2014, announced new roles for anchors Diane Sawyer, George Stephanopoulos and David Muir. Sawyer will lead new programming tackling big issues and extraordinary interviews. Stephanopoulos, Anchor of Good Morning America and This Week, has been promoted to Chief Anchor of ABC News, handling special reports and breaking news. Muir, Anchor of 20/20, will become Anchor and Managing Editor of World News starting September 2. (Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images) DAVID MUIR, GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, DIANE SAWYER, JAMES GOLDSTON
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Journalist David Muir attends the Dior & Vanity Fair with The Cinema Society premiere of The Weinstein Company's 'The Immigrant' at The Paley Center for Media on May 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - OneRepublic performs live from Central Park on 'Good Morning America,' 7/12/13, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty Images) DAVID MUIR, ONE REPUBLIC
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12: David Muir (2nd L) and Lara Spencer (C) interview (L-R) Drew Brown, Ryan Tedder, Zach Filkins, Eddie Fisher, and Brent Kutzle of OneRepublic during ABC's 'Good Morning America' at Rumsey Playfield on July 12, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Donald Newhouse(L) and ABC NewÕs David Muir attends the 2013 Newhouse Mirror Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 5, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
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The Muir-anchored "World News Tonight" attracted an average of 1,856,000 viewers between 25 and 54, the demographic desired most by sponsors of news programming, during the five-day period lasting from April 27 to May 1, according to Nielsen. In comparison, an average of 1,726,000 watched NBC's "Nightly News" and an average of 1,430,000 watched CBS' "Evening News." The win marks the seventh time in the last eight weeks ABC has won the category.

The ABC newscast won 130,000 more viewers in the category than its NBC rival, compared with a lead of 180,000 in the prior five-day period.

Any edge NBC has had over ABC in the so-called "advertiser demo" has become negligible, a signal that its newscast has weakened in recent months. Holt is anchoring in place of Brian Williams, who is in the midst of a six-month suspension after acknowledging he falsified an account of a 2003 NBC News reporting trip to Iraq. NBC News is investigating other instances in which Williams may have embellished the truth, and there are questions whether the once-celebrated newsman may return to the broadcast.

Season to date, "Nightly News" has averaged 2.153 million viewers between 25 and 54, just 5,000 more than ABC's "World News," and 9,072,000 million total viewers, 420,000 more than ABC.

Holt is proving to have some allure, however, demonstrated last week as he journeyed to Baltimore twice to anchor during recent unrest in that Maryland city. The NBC newscast wooed an average of 7,760,000 viewers overall, according to Nielsen, compared with an average of 7,687,000 who turned into ABC's "World News" and an average of 6,576,000 who watched CBS' "Evening News." Muir also paid a visit to Baltimore last week.

NBC attracted 39,000 more viewers to its newscast than ABC. But"World News" had 122,000 more viewers overall than NBC in the previous five-day period.

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