Nightline Ratings Boost

WaPo: ‘Nightline’ Ratings Rise For Roll Call of Iraq Dead

ABC News’s “Nightline” scored nearly 30 percent more viewers on Friday night than it did the rest of last week, according to preliminary numbers.

An average of about 4.5 percent of the TV households in the nation’s largest markets watched the controversial telecast, in which anchor Ted Koppel read the names of approximately 700 U.S. servicemen and -women who have been killed in Iraq. Final viewer figures will be out later this week.

The preliminary rating is about 22 percent higher than the show had done the previous Friday in the metered markets. In fact, it’s the biggest metered-market rating for “Nightline” during a May sweeps since 2002.

And it’s all the more impressive because “The Fallen,” as “Nightline” called its Friday program, aired in only 52 of those 56 metered markets. Stations in the other markets preempted the controversial show, including all of the ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair executives, who previously chastised the “liberal media” for their coverage of the war in Iraq, derided the “Nightline” broadcast as an antiwar statement — a charge Koppel denied at the end of the 40-minute telecast.

The early numbers may have come as something of a surprise to Koppel and “Nightline” Executive Producer Leroy Sievers. During their Outraged Virtue Tour last week — launched after The TV Column said it might appear unseemly to run this program during a competitive ratings derby, and after Sinclair pulled the show from its ABC stations — the two men consistently said they did not expect many people to watch the broadcast.

And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge for sale. . . .

FILED UNDER: Media, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    Or, at least, some oceanfront property in Arizona. Indeed, from the front porch you can see the sea.


  2. Most modern attempts at censorship tend to backfire:

    Streisand’s suit against the California Coastal project;

    Fox’s suit against Al Franken’s Lying Liars book (which I have yet to read);

    Salaman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.

    But I’m not sure what’s surprising you — the rating increases, or the claim that the producers weren’t expecting a ratings bump.

    Of course, its the goal of a television program to compete for ratings on a commercial TV channel.

    But do you doubt this would have recieved nearly as high ratings or publicity had Sinclair not generated all that buzz for them?

    When Franken launched his O’Franken Factor, he said: “We’re hoping O’Reilly sues us again.”

  3. James Joyner says:


    Oh, of course, all the publicity helped Nightline. But the topic was almost certainly picked to generate controversy.

    Ratings is the name of the game here and I don’t mind that they’re going after ratings. But their claim that this was some sort of public service and they were surprised by the ratings is rather silly. Not only were big ratings rather easy to predict but if they honestly thought no one would watch, who did they think they’d be “honoring”?

  4. denise says:

    “In fact, it’s the biggest metered-market rating for ‘Nightline’ during a May sweeps since 2002.”

    Since there was only one May sweeps between 2002 and 2004 (that being 2003), this statistic is rather underwhelming.