NEW YORK — CBS chose the middle of the summer for Norah O’Donnell to debut as “CBS Evening News” anchor, so probably should not be surprised that not too many people noticed.
The Nielsen company said that 5.24 million people watched her newscast each day on average last week. That’s essentially unchanged from the week before, when Jim Axelrod was the substitute host and CBS was also a distant third in the ratings behind ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News.”
Statistics being statistics, there are different ways you could look at O’Donnell’s performance. CBS says the numbers are trending up ever-so-slightly from the previous month.
Yet compared to the same week a year ago, CBS was down 5 percent in viewers and even more sharply among viewers aged 25-to-54, the age group upon which most advertising sales for news programming are based. Year-to-year, NBC is also down 5 percent and ABC is up 1 percent.
CBS News President Susan Zirinsky said the focus is on delivering journalism that impacts viewers, and pointed to interviews last week with top military commanders in the Middle East and O’Donnell’s reporting from the Texas-Mexico border. She also anchored from Florida on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch.
“Judging numbers after only one week is meaningless,” Zirinsky said.
No matter how you look at the numbers, O’Donnell has her work cut out for her. ABC’s “World News Tonight” averaged 7.9 million viewers last week and the “NBC Nightly News” had 6.9 million viewers.
Behind the dominant “America’s Got Talent,” NBC won the week in prime time, averaging 3.4 million viewers. ABC had 3.2 million, CBS had 2.9 million, Fox had 1.8 million, ION Television had 1.5 million, Telemundo had 1.2 million, Univision had 1.1 million and the CW had 670,000.
Fox News Channel was the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 2.48 million viewers in prime time. MSNBC had 1.61 million, HGTV had 1.26 million, Hallmark had 1.19 million and TBS had 1.13 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.
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