NEW YORK — Midterm election week increased the audiences for all three network evening newscasts, but none so much as the genre's current dominant force, Brian Williams and NBC's "Nightly News."
The Nielsen Co. said "Nightly News" averaged 8.7 million viewers last week. It opened up the largest weekly gap between NBC and the second-place ABC's "World News" since last winter's Olympics, which NBC aired with Williams on the scene.
Williams' telecast last week was up 12 percent in viewers from its average this television season. Diane Sawyer's ABC broadcast was up 1 percent from its season average, with Katie Couric's "CBS Evening News" up by 6 percent, Nielsen said.
"Nightly News" has led in the ratings for 60 straight weeks, and 107 of the last 108, Nielsen said.
Williams found his voice during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has looked comfortable in the role ever since, said Andrew Tyndall, a consultant with TMI Research who studies the content of evening newscasts.
"It's a half-hour newscast that has some variety to it, some light and shade," Tyndall said.
Last week's numbers were also significant for NBC in that it showed no indication that the broadcast network's news division has been hurt by association with its corporate cousin, MSNBC. The cable network has moved to the left with its opinionated hosts, with a critically bumpy ride on election night and publicity from Keith Olbermann's suspension on Friday for donating to Democratic campaigns.
There had been worry that NBC would lose appeal to some conservatives who might have associated the broadcast network with what's happening on MSNBC.
"Nightly News" (5.7 rating, 11 share) beat ABC by 2 million viewers on Thursday, its biggest margin of the week. ABC averaged 7.2 million viewers last week (4.9, 10) and CBS averaged 5.7 million (3.8, 7).
ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and NBC's Sunday Night Football were the week's most popular programs in prime-time, Nielsen said.
As it has for all but one week this TV season, CBS was the prime-time leader, averaging 11.7 million viewers (7.1 rating, 12 share). ABC had 9.3 million (5.9, 10), NBC had 7.4 million (4.6, 8), Fox had 6.7 million (4.0, 6), the CW had 2.3 million (1.5, 2) and ION Television had 1.2 million (0.8, 1).
For the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a prime-time average of 3.6 million (1.8 rating, 3 share). Telemundo had 1 million (0.5, 1), TeleFutura had 740,000 (0.4, 1), Estrella had 280,000 and Azteca had 170,000 (both 0.1, 0).
A ratings point represents 1,159,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 115.9 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week of Nov. 1-7, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 19.93 million; Sunday Night Football: Dallas vs. Green Bay, NBC, 19.37 million; "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 16.93 million; "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick," NBC, 16.04 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 15.15 million; World Series Game 5: San Francisco vs. Texas, Fox, 14.95 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 14.58 million; "The Mentalist," CBS, 14.42 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 14 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 13.96 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 and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by General Electric Co. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.