The last time NBC was on top of the evening news ratings for a year, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were the anchors and Tom Brokaw was a young reporter for a local television station in Los Angeles.
But in claiming victory for the second three months of 1998, NBC's "Nightly News" has beaten its rivals at ABC and CBS for four consecutive quarters. It's the network's longest winning streak since mid-1967.Meanwhile, CBS narrowly won Nielsen Media Research's prime-time ratings race last week, led by another news program - "60 Minutes."
"Nightly News" displaced the long-running ratings leader, ABC's "World News Tonight," last year and has won the competitive race consistently week-to-week.
"Obviously, it's very gratifying," Brokaw said. "It's especially pleasing to be able to share this with a lot of people who have been through some long, dark days here and now have emerged into the sunlight."
While Brokaw concedes "Nightly News" has benefited from NBC's overall strength in prime-time and news programming, he believes viewers have responded to its efforts to concentrate on longer, more in-depth stories.
The program has experimented in recent months by turning over more than half of some broadcasts to single topics, like the economy, sexual harassment, Iraq and the nation's parks system.
"We've worked hard at re-energizing the form," he said.
For the year's second quarter, "Nightly News" averaged just under 9.5 million total viewers. The "CBS Evening News" had nearly 9.2 million and "World News Tonight" 9 million. ABC was second in the ratings, however, indicating more homes were tuned in than to CBS.
Brokaw's broadcast won last week, too. It had a 7.2 rating and 17 share for the week, followed by CBS's 6.7 rating and 16 share and ABC's 6.6 and 16.
A rating point represents 980,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 98 million TV homes. Share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week in prime-time, CBS had a 6.3 rating and 12 share, NBC had a 6.2 rating and 12 share and ABC had a 5.6 rating and 11 share. Fox was fourth with a 4.9 rating and 10 share, followed by the WB's 2.2 and 4, and UPN's 1.7 and 3.
"60 Minutes" was the top-rated show, during the same week CBS confirmed it was actively considering a second edition of the venerable newsmagazine.
For the week of June 22-28, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings were: 1. "60 Minutes," CBS, 10.6; 2. "Dateline NBC-Tuesday," NBC, 10.3; 3. "ER," NBC, 10.3; 4. "Just Shoot Me," NBC, 10.3; 5. "Seinfeld," NBC, 9.7; 6. "20/20-Monday," ABC, 9.2; 7. "20/20-Friday," ABC, 8.9; 8. "Frasier," NBC, 8.6; 9. "Dateline NBC-Monday," NBC, 8.4; 10. "Touched By an Angel," CBS, 8.3.