The Chicken Littles who squawked that the sky was falling after Lester Holt's first week filling in for Brian Williams behind the "NBC Nightly News" desk have fallen silent, as the Feb. 16 to Feb. 20 newscasts put up huge ratings.
Mr. Holt's second week as the "Nightly News" anchor averaged 10.1 million viewers, per Nielsen figures, only the fourth time this season that NBC has reached that milestone. No other nightly newscast has hit that mark in eight seasons.
More important, Mr. Holt improved on the newscast's quarterly deliveries of adults 25 to 54 by 6%, adding 134,000 members of the demo most coveted by evening news advertisers. Week two of Mr. Holt's tenancy also edged his predecessor's final five days in the anchor chair, effectively muzzling earlier chatter as to how viewers would flee after Mr. Williams' departure.
The rush to judgment on Mr. Holt and "Nightly News" was at once premature and ill-informed. NBC continues to hold on to a slight (2%) lead in the demo over its most competitive rival, ABC News, and speculation about everything from make-goods to pricing discounts to advertisers dropping out of the newscast remain wholly unfounded.
Simply put, there is no better place for pharmaceutical and insurance marketers to reach concentrated, older-skewing audiences than on the evening news. If NBC were to lose half a million viewers in the target demo and subsequently fall into third place, the clucking of a few weeks ago would be not without merit. But that won't happen. Along with their lifelong affinity for watching the evening news, one of the nice things about older viewers: They're brand loyal.