In the last week alone, O’Donnell’s total viewers plunged 17 percent to 5.1 million, according to Nielsen. Among viewers in the crucial demographic ages 25 to 54 that’s coveted by advertisers, the drop was a heart-stopping 25 percent.
It’s a troubling sign for CBS, whose evening newscast has been stuck in third place since the tail end of Dan Rather’s tenure, which ended in controversy over his reporting about President George W. Bush’s military service.
Asked about the decline, CBS sent The NY Post a statement from Zirinsky, saying the network is “extremely pleased with how quickly the ‘CBS Evening News’ with Norah O’Donnell has established itself as a must-see destination for exclusive reporting and investigative journalism. We’re just getting started — ratings are not the sole measure at this time.”
|ABC's David Muir, NBC's Lester Holt|
But CBS’ dismal 2018-19 decline — in which its overall viewership sank 6 percent to 5.8 million through the middle of last month — has only worsened with the arrival of O’Donnell.
Nevertheless, critics say CBS executives have botched the transition, failing to launch O’Donnell’s tenure with a major publicity campaign or slogan. The network has pledged to move O’Donnell to Washington — the first time a major news network has anchored its broadcast outside New York since the 1970s. But the timing has been vague.