Feb 24, 5:23 PM EST

NBC 'Nightly News' holds ratings lead again with Lester Holt


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NEW YORK (AP) -- Lester Holt's audience shot up by more than half a million viewers on his second week filling in at NBC's "Nightly News" for the suspended Brian Williams. Then again, his rivals fared just as well.

NBC's newscast averaged 10.1 million viewers last week, roughly 600,000 more than the week before, the Nielsen company said. But on a busy news week with many viewers shut in by the cold, ABC's "World News Tonight" gained about the same number of viewers and the "CBS Evening News" shot up by 900,000.

The result is evidence that "Nightly News" did not take a big hit, at least initially, because of the suspension of Williams for six months for misrepresenting his experiences covering the Iraq War in 2003.

"Nightly News" had about a 400,000 edge in viewers over "World News Tonight." The average margin this season prior to Williams' departure was 587,000 viewers.

The Oscars dominated prime time last week. Although viewership was down sharply from last year, this year's Oscars ceremony improved its showing from Nielsen's original estimate on Monday. Nielsen said Tuesday there were 37.3 million viewers, a full million more than it had estimated from a smaller sample the day earlier.

CBS received a boost from the series finale of "Two and a Half Men," once television's most popular comedy. The hour-long finale last week was seen by 13.5 million viewers, even though the teased return of Charlie Sheen did not materialize.

CBS' salute to Stevie Wonder was seen by 7.6 million viewers.

Behind the Oscars and the Red Carpet prelims, ABC won the week in prime-time with an average of 10.6 million viewers. CBS had 8.8 million, NBC had 4.8 million, Fox had 4.6 million, Univision had 3.1 million, the CW had 1.8 million, ION Television had 1.2 million and Telemundo had 1.17 million.

USA was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.08 million viewers in prime time. AMC had 1.83 million, Fox News Channel had 1.74 million, the Disney Channel had 1.71 million and TBS had 1.69 million.

"Nightly News" averaged 10.1 million viewers, "World News Tonight" had 9.7 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 8.5 million.

For the week of Feb. 16-22, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "The Oscars," ABC, 37.26 million; "Live From the Red Carpet," (Sunday, 8 p.m.), ABC, 23.82 million; "NCIS," CBS, 18.06 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 17.49 million; "Live From the Red Carpet" (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.), ABC, 16.93 million; "NCIS: New Orleans," CBS, 14.7 million; "The Odd Couple," CBS, 13.57 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 13.52 million; "The Walking Dead," AMC, 13.44 million; "Empire," Fox, 13.02 million.

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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 is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online:

http://www.nielsen.com

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