Are ABC News Programs Actually ‘Stronger Today’ Than 10 Years Ago? Ratings Suggest Otherwise

On Tuesday afternoon, ABC News President David Westin wrote a lengthy memo to his staff detailing the network’s plans to significantly reduce its work force in the weeks and months ahead. We’re still digesting much of the memo, but one sentence immediately caught our attention.

“Our programs are stronger today than they were ten years ago,” wrote Mr. Westin.

Ten years ago, Peter Jennings was still the anchor of World News. Ted Koppel was still at the helm at Nightline. And broadcast TV was still largely unchallenged by cable news and the Internet.

Are the ratings for ABC News programs actually better in 2010 than in 2000?

We took a look.

After some digging, we came up with season averages (October 1999 to September 2000) from ten years ago based on Nielsen data for each of the major shows on ABC News. So based on the 25-54 year old demographic on which news divisions sell ads is ABC News, in fact, doing better than a decade ago?

The short answer: no.

Here’s a snapshot of the relevant data based on comparisons with the most recent available weekly averages in the 25-54 demo:

World News, season average 1999-2000: 3,450,000
World News, average, week of 2/15/10: 2,270,000
Down 34.3 percent

Good Morning America, season average 1999-2000: 1,990,000
Good Morning America, average, week of 2/08/10: 2,120,000
Up 6.5 percent

Nightline, season average 1999-2000: 2,250,000
Nightline, average, week of 2/08/10: 1,890,000
Down 16.0 percent

This Week, season average 1999-2000: 1,020,000
This Week, average, week of 2/08/10: 797,000
Down 21.9 percent