On first glance, the Lester Holt era of “The NBC Nightly News” has gotten off to a very good start in Western New York.
During the February sweeps when Holt took over for the suspended Brian Williams after seven days of the sweeps, the “Nightly News” continued to be a strong No. 1 here on Channel 2.
The 30-minute newscast, which also was No. 1 nationally, averaged a 12.1 household rating on Channel 2. That’s up from 10.7 from a year ago when NBC was carrying the Winter Olympics for a few weeks. The February rating also was slightly higher than the rating in November of 2014 when Williams was anchor.
The NBC newscast was the only one in WNY to get higher ratings this February than it did a year ago.
However, a closer look shows some audience slippage in weeks three and four when Holt was the anchor.
NBC averaged a 12.9 rating the week of Feb. 2 when Williams anchored. It had a 12.3 in week two when Holt took over and an 11.5 in weeks three and four.
The results in week three and four were still strong and higher than the February, 2014 sweeps average, which is a good sign for NBC. The drop from the first two weeks also could be a reflection of the relative importance of national news in that time frame as the ratings for CBS and ABC also declined in those weeks.
“The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” on Channel 4 was second here during the entire sweeps with an 8.0 rating, down from an 8.9 a year ago.
ABC’s “World News” with David Muir averaged a 5.2 rating, down from a 5.4 a year ago when Diane Sawyer was the anchor.
Of course, this is one sweeps period and the Williams scandal may actually have drawn more nightly news viewers to NBC to see how it would cover the story of his suspension and how well Holt would do in his place for the six months that Williams has been suspended.
If things continue to do as well nationally for NBC while Williams is off, the chance that he will reclaim his anchor spot will diminish even more.
The national newscast ratings here reflect the popularity of the local newscasts that run before them as a lead-in. Channel 2 is first here from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Channel 4 is second and Channel 7 a poor third.
Similarly, the strength of Channel 2’s first-place morning program “Daybreak” helps NBC’s “Today” grab a decisive lead in WNY when ABC’s “Good Morning America” is No.1 nationally.
“Today” averaged an 8.6 rating here, up from a 6.7 a year ago. It is the only national morning show to show an increase this February from a year ago. “CBS This Morning” had a 4.2 rating on Channel 4, down slightly from a 4.4 a year ago. “GMA” averaged a 3.6 rating on Channel 7, down from a 4.0 a year ago.
The viewership of late-night talk shows has dropped dramatically from a year ago, with the biggest drop experienced by NBC's “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” But the drop comes with a big asterisk as ratings were inflated a year ago because Jay Leno ended his run as host in February, 2014 and Fallon began his run in the same Olympic month.
This February, Fallon’s show averaged a 4.0 rating, down from a 6.4 rating in February of 2014. The 4.0 rating was still good enough for first place in WNY.
In David Letterman's next-to-last sweeps month before Stephen Colbert takes over in late night, Letterman's CBS show averaged a 3.8 rating, down from a 4.6 a year ago.
Jimmy Kimmel was the only late-night host to experience a rating gain from a year ago, but his ABC talk show still is a deep third in this market. Kimmel’s show averaged a 1.9 rating on Channel 7, up from a 1.7 a year ago.
Of course, these are household ratings and the full picture arrives shortly with the demographics that are important to advertisers. That's also where Fallon has had a big advantage.