NEW YORK — ABC's "This Week" beat NBC's "Meet the Press" in a clean ratings fight for the first time in a decade, Nielsen Media Research said on Thursday.
It was June 1999 when ABC's show last beat NBC's program in a contest without substitute hosts, sports pre-emptions or presidential visits.
It's an ominous sign for David Gregory, who was called upon to take over NBC's long dominant Sunday morning show following Tim Russert's death from a heart attack last year. While it's only one Sunday in August, "This Week" has been steadily gaining ground since the beginning of the year.
The ABC show had 2.8 million viewers on Sunday, compared to 2.77 million for "Meet the Press," Nielsen said. CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer had 2.3 million viewers and "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace had 920,000.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was on ABC this week. So was Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Gregory's lead guest was Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council.
"We're gratified that people are paying attention," said "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos. "We just do everything we can to put on the best broadcast we can each week, to be on the news and to be provocative."
Stephanopoulos frequently takes "This Week" out of Washington, and believes this helps the show with bookings. He traveled to Iran in April to interview that nation's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He accompanied Vice President Joe Biden on a trip to Iraq a month ago.
Administrations tend to rotate their officials around the Sunday morning shows on a more-or-less equal basis. But for other newsmakers, until Russert's death, it tended to be "Meet the Press" and then everyone else.
A more competitive ratings race may change the balance of power in bookings; Greenspan hadn't appeared on "This Week" in more than a decade until last fall and again this past week. Both times, he was a ratings-grabber for ABC.
Stephanopoulos has also shaken up the roundtable discussion that's a centerpiece of his show, adding voices like Peggy Noonan, Donna Brazile and Michelle Malkin to traditional participants Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and George Will.
An NBC spokeswoman had no comment, other than to point out "Meet the Press" is on pace to win the quarter and year in ratings. NBC had kept its ratings strong when the veteran anchor Tom Brokaw filled in for Russert for several months, but Gregory faces an experience deficit compared to Schieffer and Stephanopoulos.