In an effort to stay atop the ratings in the aftermath of the Brian Williams scandal, NBC has begun airing rebroadcasts of the Nightly News in select markets between 2 and 4 a.m., according to Politico.
The network has been including the numbers from the rebroadcasts in its total ratings reports, boosting the total audience for the program.
Laura Nelson, the chief communications officer for ratings company Nielsen, said that NBC was following standard industry practice and that they were “operating within their guidelines.”
It may be standard industry practice, but as of now only NBC is taking advantage of the rebroadcasts—thereby gaining additional viewers for its ratings—while ABC and CBS stand pat with the numbers from their original broadcasts.
Politico also noted the curious timing of the rebroadcasts, with NBC starting in one market the same week Williams apologized for lying about his Iraq experiences, and then adding three more markets the week Williams was suspended for six months. Since then, according to a Politico source, NBC has added rebroadcasts of its evening news show in at least 10 more markets—including Atlanta, Minneapolis and Denver—in “major urban areas.”
NBC may be claiming that the Nightly News is doing just fine without Williams, but any ratings that are reported for the program should be taken with a grain of salt, since they are padded with the rebroadcast numbers.
UPDATE: TVNewser reported on March 20 that the rebroadcasts added about 70,000 viewers for the week of March 9. Given that the Nightly News won the week by 11,000 viewers, it is likely that ABC’s World News Tonight would have beaten NBC for the first time since September 7, 2009 without the extra boost.