Tough economic news and the arrival of the Obama administration have helped bring more viewers to the broadcast evening news shows, a TV staple that's been written off many times in the past.
The ABC, CBS and NBC newscasts all hit ratings milestones last week.
The "CBS Evening News" had its biggest weekly average in two years and ABC's "World News" its largest in one year. The 11.5 million people who watched NBC's "Nightly News" last Monday was its biggest one-day audience in three years.
"Everyone has put the election behind and now it's (time for) solutions — how bad is this and what are we going to do about it," said "Nightly News" executive producer Bob Epstein. "That really plays to the strength and definition of what our broadcast is and what all the evening news broadcasts are."
The "Nightly News" audience has been up 4 percent in the nearly two months since Election Day, compared to the same period the year before. Among the 25-to-54 demographic NBC considers most ideal, the audience is up 11 percent.
The NBC newscast, anchored by Brian Williams, has increased its working margin over Charles Gibson and "World News." The ABC newscast is down 2 percent from the previous year, while Katie Couric's "CBS Evening News" is up 3 percent during the same period.
Epstein said Williams has made it a point to concentrate on the economic story, and how it's affected viewers who don't necessarily work on Wall Street.
Oddly, these newscasts saw little benefit from the intense interest paid to the presidential campaign, at least in comparison to their cable cousins.
CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, collectively, averaged 8.6 million viewers a night during the hottest stage of the campaign, in October. It was down to 4.3 million in December and 4.8 million in January, Nielsen said.
The opinionated talk shows on cable were well-suited to the campaign-obsessed, while now there's a need for hard information, Epstein said.
The Super Bowl and "American Idol" dominated the prime-time ratings last week. Nielsen said Tuesday the game between Arizona and Pittsburgh was the most-watched Super Bowl ever with 98.7 million viewers, revising an estimate from the day before by adding more than 3 million viewers.
The game led NBC to average 21.6 million prime-time viewers last week (10.3 rating, 16 share). Fox had 11.3 million viewers (6.5, 10), CBS 9.5 million (6.0, 10), ABC 5.8 million (3.7, 6), My Network TV 1.6 million (1.0, 2) the CW 1.5 million (1.0, 1) and ION Television 580,000 (0.4, 1).
Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 4.2 million average (2.0, 3), Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura 570,000 (0.3, 0) and Azteca 150,000 (0.1, 0).
A ratings point represents 1,145,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.5 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week of Jan. 26-Feb. 1, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: Super Bowl XLIII: Arizona vs. Pittsburgh, NBC, 98.73 million; Super Bowl postgame show, NBC, 57.4 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 27.36 million; "American Idol" (Tuesday), Fox, 25.54 million; "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 24.61 million; "The Office" (Sunday), NBC, 22.91 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 20.15 million; "NCIS," CBS, 19.2 million; "House," Fox, 15.69 million; "The Mentalist," CBS, 15.23 million.