NEW YORK -- David Muir is celebrating his fifth anniversary as "World News Tonight" anchor with something that's rare in television: a larger audience.
The ABC newscast finished its year-long season last week with an average of 8.6 million viewers a night, the Nielsen company said. It's the third straight year ABC has won the evening news ratings competition, with its largest margin over NBC in 23 years and CBS in 27 years, the network said.
"World News Tonight" was averaging 7.9 million viewers when Muir replaced Diane Sawyer as anchor of ABC's flagship newscast in September 2014. At the time, NBC's "Nightly News" was the most popular newscast behind anchor Brian Williams, who was replaced by Lester Holt in 2015 after Williams was found to have made false claims about reporting in Iraq.
Muir and Holt ran neck-and-neck in popularity for a period until Muir began pulling away. NBC still holds a slight lead among viewers ages 25-to-54, the demographic that news advertisers seek most eagerly.
"David Muir has a unique ability to connect with the American audience," said Almin Karamehmedovic, executive producer of "World News Tonight." ''He's passionate and he's fearless and he delivers the stories in a way that really resonates."
ABC saw something in Muir and its decision to have him replace Sawyer turned out to be a good one, said Andrew Tyndall, an independent consultant who studies evening newscasts.
ABC also made "World News Tonight" a much faster-paced broadcast that is similar in tone to the local newscasts that usually precede it on ABC's schedule, Tyndall said.
The ABC newscast's average audience of 8.61 million is slightly down from last year's average of 8.64 million, Nielsen said. "Nightly News" has slipped from 8.16 million viewers each night to 7.95 million. The "CBS Evening News," where Norah O'Donnell took over as anchor in July, saw its nightly average decline from 6.22 million to 5.84 million.
On the last week of the summer TV season, NBC won bragging rights in prime time entertainment with an average viewership of 6.2 million. CBS had 5.6 million, ABC had 3.8 million, Fox had 3 million, ION Television h ad 1.31 million, Univision had 1.26 million, Telemundo had 1.1 million and the CW had 540,000.
Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.43 million viewers in prime time. ESPN had 1.91 million, MSNBC had 1.71 million, Hallmark had 1.38 million and HGTV had 1.33 million.
For the week, "World News Tonight" averaged 8.1 million viewers, "Nightly News" had 7.3 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 5 million.
For the week of Sept. 16-22, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: L.A. Rams at Cleveland, NBC, 18.59 million; "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick," NBC, 13.17 million; NFL Football: Cleveland at N.Y. Jets, ESPN, 12.22 million; "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday), NBC, 10.22 million; "Football Night in America," NBC, 10.06 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 9.93 million; "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 9.88 million; College Football: Notre Dame at Georgia, CBS, 9.29 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 8.08 million; "Emmy Awards," Fox, 6.98 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by Fox Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.