- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NBC News’ two-night peek at the inner workings of the Obama White House made for an unusual sight in the TV ratings — a news documentary among the nation’s 10 most popular programs.

On the downside for TV news, CBS’ evening newscast with Katie Couric hit a historic low point last week, Nielsen Media Research said.

The Obama documentaries ran for an hour each on Tuesday and Wednesday night, a quick turnaround since NBC’s cameras recorded their “day in the life” segment only the previous Friday. Chief anchor Brian Williams was the host.

Both episodes reached more than 9 million viewers, a response NBC considered so strong that it re-aired them on Friday.

Although individual episodes of CBS’ “60 Minutes” have hit Nielsen’s top 10 this season — including again last week — no other news documentary has.

The program gave a vivid view of how the new White House worked, and President Obama brought the cameras along for a noontime errand buying hamburgers for staff members. It received some criticism for being too soft, and NBC also took heat for asking a question that it was quickly able to turn into a promo for new “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien.

“Inside the Obama White House” did, however, give Mr. Williams bragging rights for getting a bigger audience than any of the D-list cast members of NBC’s “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here.”

CBS had no immediate explanation for why last week turned out so poorly for the “CBS Evening News.” The 5.2 million viewers represented the smallest weekly audience since at least 1987, and probably for many years before that.

Miss Couric anchored for all but one night last week. In CBS’ defense, low-water marks in ratings are becoming increasingly more commonplace for many broadcast networks as alternative choices multiply. Evening news programs also tend to lose viewers as the weather gets warmer and the days longer. Since September, CBS’ news ratings have remained flat compared to the previous year, while NBC has gone up and ABC down.

NBC’s “Nightly News” averaged 8 million viewers last week, while ABC’s “World News” had 7.2 million.

The first two games of the NBA Finals on ABC were the most-watched prime-time programs last week, yet that didn’t stop CBS from winning the week.

CBS averaged 7.1 million viewers. ABC had 6.2 million viewers and won among the advertising-friendly demographic of 18-to-49-year-old viewers. NBC had 6.1 million, Fox 5.2 million, My Network TV 1.4 million, the CW 1 million and ION Television 800,000..

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.4 million average. Telemundo had 1.3 million, TeleFutura 690,000 and Azteca 170,000.

For the week of June 1 through 7, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships were: 1) NBA Finals, Game 2: Orlando vs. L.A. Lakers, ABC, 14.06 million; 2) NBA Finals, Game 1, ABC, 13.04 million; 3) “Law & Order: SVU,” NBC, 11.56 million; 4)”NCIS,” CBS, 11.26 million; 5) “The Mentalist” (Tuesday, 9 p.m.), CBS, 10.88 million; 6) “Two and a Half Men,” CBS, 10.1 million; 7)”Inside the Obama White House” (Tuesday), NBC, 9.17 million; 8)”Inside the Obama White House,” (Wednesday), NBC, 9.04 million; 9) “60 Minutes,” CBS, 8.89 million; and 10) “Law & Order,” NBC, 8.87 million.

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