It’s one of the more retrograde traditions of old-media chest-thumping. But the Big Three networks of yore — ABC, NBC and CBS — still take the evening news ratings race very seriously.
Which is why we don’t understand why NBC and ABC don’t release streaming data to break the current ratings tie between “World News with Charles Gibson” and “Nightly News with Brian Williams.” Gibson took the lead over Williams last spring, but the two have been in a see-saw contest over the course of the fall season. Last week Gibson and Williams tied — tied! — at 9.08 million viewers apiece, according to Nielsen. Williams was ahead by 70,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. (CBS’s Katie Couric is a bit of a non-player in the race, with 6.67 million viewers.)
So the question is why don’t NBC and ABC release viewing stats on the webcasts of “Nightly” and “World News” if, indeed winning the so-called race is so important? We suspect it’s because the streaming stats would be embarrassing, and they would reveal that even though news is the most sought-after genre of web video, on the web it’s the news people care about, not the person behind the desk.