Couric Squeezes the Gap with Sawyer to 150,000 Viewers — Narrowest of  Season — 66% Smaller than Last Year

Christmas Colors in Red and Green

note from your friendly blogarist: “Paint by Numbers” will be an occasional, yet regular,  feature of daily Xpress meant to reach behind the press releases for a more accurate picture of the state of broadcast news than reported elswhere.

Can you call a 150,000-viewer gap between ABCs World News with Diane Sawyer and CBS Evening News with Katie Couric anything other than "striking distance?"

Note to Les Moonves: Objects in the rear view mirror may be closer than they appear.

As you sit down to re-negotiate Katie Couric’s $15M salary and future at CBS News, and you should amidst your continuing lay-offs, you might want to take a closer look at her A25-54 numbers this year compared to last year.

Katie Couric has narrowed the gap with Diane Sawyer on 12 out of the 14 weeks of this season. (One week showed the same gap as last year).

I just want to make sure you have our Paint By Numbers kit. TVNewser seems to have ignored this accomplishment which is somewhat  surprising given their warm relationship with her executive producer. Oh well, maybe they’ll write something about it next week, in a round up of the quarter. (Oops, they missed it again. Might they be holding back to hang on to some negotiating leverage?)

Bloomberg News, in reporting on your preliminary talks for her new contract, noted this last week:  “Both sides recognize Couric’s salary must be reduced for her to remain at CBS, one of the people said. This season, the “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” is averaging 5.73 million viewers a night, according to Nielsen Co. data, behind NBC and ABC, and down 24 percent from when she took over in 2006.”

Yikes, the  continuing obsession TV writers have with total viewership is…. meaningless.   Does that matter in the real business world?   Not one bit.

As you know, “total” viewers don’t add one single dollar to the financial health of a news division.  Doesn’t it make you want to scream “It’s the demo, stupid,”  because that’s what they should  be tracking for Katie in the coming weeks.


For the week of December 13, Katie Couric quietly narrowed the demo gap with Diane Sawyer from 500 000 to 450,000 year to year.  *** And this just in for the week of December 20.  Katie Couric squeezed the demo gap down to just 150,000, narrowing that gap a whopping 66% over the same week in 2009 (440,000). The CBS demo delivery of 1,980,000 viewers was actually  the second highest of the season, only topped by Thanksgiving week which only included two days (Monday and Tuesday.)

The week of Christmas only included four days, excluding Friday (generally the lowest rated day of the week for the evening newscasts.) This year, as last year, Diane Sawyer took off for her birthday  (December 22) and the day after.  David Muir substituted.

While it’s no secret viewer numbers are declining and viewer erosion remains a weekly battle, the evening newscasts still continue to attract the largest number of news consumers.


When you compare this years demo delivery by ABC this year to last year,  ABC World News with Diane Sawyer  was the only network newscast that saw declines every single week since the start of the season for the entire fourth quarter.  Evening News grew five out of 14 weeks of the quarter, and Nightly News was up or tied for three weeks.

EVENING NEWSCASTS: % CHANGE 2010 versus 2009
20-Sep -7% +1% +5%
27-Sep -15% -4% -9%
4-Oct -10% +8% -17%
11-Oct -9% -8% -16%
18-Oct -11% -13% -9%
25-Oct -12% -8% -11%
1-Nov -13% -11% -13%
8-Nov -13% -4% -2%
15-Nov -4% +4% FLAT
22-Nov -5% +22% +7%
29-Nov -3% -10% -3%
6-Dec -8% -10% -7%
13-Dec -3% -1% -3%
20-Dec ___ -6% _____  _+ 8% _______ -6%

The week of December 20 marks Sawyer’s one-year anniversary in the anchor chair, and the first opportunity to measure her own year to year performance.  All other weeks in the ABC year to year analysis above compare Diane Sawyer’s demo delivery to that of her predecessor, Charlie Gibson.

For those still tracking total viewing #s, Nightly News with Brian Williams widened it’s gap over World News week to week, or 11%

12/20 total viewers_ NBC: 9,510,000  ABC  7,980,000   CBS 6,249,000

12/20 demo viewers NBC: 2,680,000 _ABC 2,130,000 _CBS 1,980,000

Week to week Brian Williams increased the demo gap with ABC by 25%.

That’s our early fringe Paint By Numbers kit for this week so you can help keep ’em honest. More later.