NEW YORK (AP) — Evening newscasts on ABC and CBS are both gaining ground on market leader Brian Williams of NBC News, but that's one of the few things they have in common.
Behind Diane Sawyer, second-place ABC is making strides with a sleek "World News" that emphasizes the American family, news that hits home and the cultural zeitgeist. Scott Pelley has revealed himself to be a traditionalist at "CBS Evening News," leading a show weighty with significant national and international events.
NBC's "Nightly News" remains in first place, where it has generally been since the late 1990s except for a brief run by Charles Gibson at ABC. The Nielsen company said NBC's viewership is down from last year while ABC and CBS are up, with ABC in July winning a week among the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic for the first time since 2008.
Despite decades-long prophecies of doom, network evening newscasts remain a vital part of television's landscape, collectively reaching more than 22 million people each weeknight. Often, Williams' newscast is more popular than NBC's prime-time programming.
Now there's a creative push to distinguish broadcasts that once seemed interchangeable.
"We recognize the environment has changed very significantly," said James Goldston, ABC's senior vice president of news. "The days when an evening newscast can act as a digest of the day's news are gone."
What's happening in the evening is similar to the morning, in terms of content. ABC's "Good Morning America" has swept past NBC's "Today" with a breezy show on the tip of pop culture and hosts that ooze chemistry. CBS remains in third, but has gained ground since it stopped trying to imitate its rivals.
The most visible recent sign of the different approaches came not in the evening but a few hours before. On July 22, when Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton became parents for the first time, ABC cut away from regular afternoon programming for more than an hour to talk about the birth, coverage that featured Barbara Walters.