Media

Norah O'Donnell's debut as 'CBS Evening News' anchor met with slight ratings dip

Norah O'Donnell's debut this week as the new anchor for "CBS Evening News" resulted in a slight ratings dip compared to a year earlier, a sign of the uphill battle the program faces to make inroads against network rivals ABC and NBC.

 

"CBS Evening News" on Monday averaged 5.61 million total viewers, down from the 5.69 million delivered by previous anchor Jeff Glor on the same day last year.

 

The numbers were behind ABC and NBC in the 6:30 p.m. time slot. ABC's "World News Tonight" with David Muir averaged 7.93 million viewers, and 1.5 million in the 25- to 54-year old demographic that advertisers cater to, while "NBC Nightly News" averaged 7.078 million viewers and 1.565 million in the main demo group.

 

However, CBS was up 2 percent in total viewers, while NBC was down 6 percent and ABC was down 7 percent when compared to the prior four Mondays.

 

"The CBS Evening News" has been mired in third place for more than 20 years, dating back to the latter stages of the Dan Rather era. Glor's tenure as lead anchor lasted less than two years after he took over for Scott Pelley in October 2017.

 

O'Donnell's debut was also beaten by Bret Baier's "Special Report" on Fox News Channel

in several key major markets, including Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Atlanta and Miami. Baier's program airs on basic cable from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

O'Donnell, who has served as co-host of "CBS This Morning" since 2012 and was an MSNBC host prior to jumping to CBS, also had fewer viewers than Glor in the 25-54 demographic, generating 929,000 viewers in that category compared to the 1.22 million total viewers Glor took in last year, a decline of 24 percent.

 

Monday's program included an interview with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.

 

At the end of Monday's program, O'Donnell paid homage to CBS News icon Edward R. Murrow by quoting his 1958 remarks about news on television. 

"There's a great legacy here at CBS News of the finest journalists. One of them was Edward R. Murrow," she said.

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and even it can inspire but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends, otherwise it's nothing but wires and lights in a box," O'Donnell said, quoting Murrow. "There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance, and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful."

"To Mr. Murrow, we will try to use it well and with integrity," she added. "From all of us at CBS News, I'm Norah O'Donnell, good night."

O'Donnell also serves as managing editor of the newscast. The former NBC News White House correspondent also will be lead anchor for political coverage of the 2020 elections.

"CBS Evening News" will be broadcast from CBS News headquarters in New York before moving to Washington, D.C., in the fall.

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