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World News Tonight is No. 1 for first time in 18 years

David Muir dominates in viewers but NBC’s Lester Holt still reigns in key demos

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ABC/Ida Mae Astute

David Muir may be getting something extra special in his Christmas stocking this year: he has helped to make World News Tonight the most-watched primetime news program for the first time in 18 years.

The last time World News held the top spot was during the 1998-99 season when Peter Jennings sat at the anchor’s desk, according to Nielsen. Muir is also besting Nightly News with Lester Holt by 82,000 viewers (8.42 million vs. 8.34 million) — its largest season-to-date advantage over NBC since the 1996-97 season.

The race isn’t over yet, though: Holt still dominates the time slot among adults 25-54 and adults 18-49. NBC, as usual, won the November sweeps in the demos but ABC triumphed in total viewers — its first win among total eyeballs in 15 years.

Muir, 43, took over for Diane Sawyer in 2014. ABC News credits the show’s viewership surge to the 14 international reporting trips that Muir has taken since assuming the anchor post.

Here are the the latest results from Nielsen for the week of Nov. 21:

  Total Viewers Adults 25-54 Adults 18-49
ABC World News Tonight 9,219,000 1.6/6; 1,908,000 1.1/5; 1,406,000
NBC Nightly News 9,609,000 1.8/7; 2,174,000 1.2/6; 1,600,000
CBS Evening News 8,006,000 1.5/6; 1,790,000 1.0/5; 1,285,000