NBC Nightly News

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NBC Nightly News
NBC Nightly News.jpg
Genre News program
Created by Reuven Frank
Presented by Weekdays:
Brian Williams (2004–present; suspended)
Lester Holt (2013 and 2015–present; interim)[1]
Lester Holt (2007–present)
Narrated by Bill Hanrahan (1970–1983)
Howard Reig (1983–2007)
Michael Douglas (2007–present; not used during suspension)
Bill Wolff (2015–present; interim)
Bill Wolff (2007–present)
Theme music composer Fred Weinberg Productions (1977)
Henry Mancini (1977–1982)
Joseph Paul Sicurella,
Tony Smythe &
Bob Christianson (1982–1985)
John Williams (1985–present)
Opening theme The Mission (1985–present)
(for past themes, see section)
Ending theme same as opening
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 45
Location(s) Studio 3B, NBC News Newsroom, GE Building
30 Rockefeller Center
New York City, New York[2]
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) NBC News Productions
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original run August 3, 1970 (1970-08-03) – present
Preceded by Huntley-Brinkley Report
External links

NBC Nightly News is the flagship daily evening television news program for NBC News, the news division of the NBC television network in the United States. First aired on August 3, 1970, the program is currently the most watched network newscast in the United States, with an average of 9.3 million viewers, just a few thousand more than its nearest rival, ABC's World News Tonight.[3][4] NBC Nightly News is produced from Studio 3B at NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City.

The weeknight broadcasts have been anchored by Brian Williams since 2004, while the weekend editions have been anchored by Lester Holt since 2007; however, due to Williams serving a six-month suspension which began February 10, 2015, Holt is interim weeknight anchor.[5] Previous anchors have included David Brinkley, John Chancellor, and Tom Brokaw.

The program is broadcast live over most NBC stations from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time seven days a week; a special "Western Edition" of the program occasionally features updated information on news stories covered during the original telecast for Pacific Time Zone viewers. Its current theme music, "The Mission," which debuted in 1985, was composed by John Williams.

John Chancellor & David Brinkley (1970–1982)[edit]

NBC Nightly News title card, used from 1972 to 1975.

The Huntley-Brinkley Report was renamed NBC Nightly News in August 1970 upon the retirement of Chet Huntley. At first, David Brinkley, John Chancellor and Frank McGee rotated duties as anchors. At least one, usually two, and very rarely all three anchored the program on a given night. Except for the few nights when one of the men solo anchored, each evening's program included one anchor based in New York City and one in Washington, D.C., as had been the case on Huntley-Brinkley. Brinkley's appearances were always from Washington and McGee's from New York. Chancellor moved between New York and Washington depending on his partner for the evening.

In addition to Brinkley as a holdover from the Huntley-Brinkley Report, McGee had earned praise for his anchoring or co-anchoring of space flights, and Chancellor had also earned praise as McGee's co-anchor for the space missions of Apollo 12 and Apollo 13.

Brinkley provided commentary several times per week in the 1970s.

With network executives perceiving the instability of this arrangement as a factor in Nightly News losing audience share to the CBS Evening News, NBC discontinued the rotation arrangement, and McGee eventually took over for Hugh Downs as host of Today. Chancellor became the sole anchor of the program on August 9, 1971, with Brinkley providing a three-minute commentary segment, "David Brinkley's Journal," from Washington several times a week.

On June 7, 1976, NBC brought Brinkley back to the anchor desk and tried the dual-anchor approach once again. Initially, Chancellor and Brinkley both reported from New York City, however Brinkley would later return to Washington. Chancellor again became sole anchor of Nightly News on October 10, 1979, with Brinkley once again providing commentaries until he left NBC for ABC News in 1981, where he became host of that network's new Sunday morning interview show This Week.

Despite the various changes, Chancellor was never able to break the grip that Walter Cronkite and the CBS Evening News had on the American news viewer, although Nightly News was sometimes a strong second place in the evening news ratings for most of the 1970s. After stepping down from the anchor desk on April 2, 1982, Chancellor remained on the program as an editorial commentator until his retirement in 1993.

Tom Brokaw (1982–2004)[edit]

On April 5, 1982, Tom Brokaw, who had been serving as anchor of Today since 1976, joined the program and took over co-anchor duties in New York City, while Roger Mudd became anchor in Washington. Mudd was dropped from the broadcast and Brokaw became the solo anchor of Nightly News on September 5, 1983, the same day that his ABC competitor, Peter Jennings, became sole anchor of World News Tonight. Brokaw's presence slowly attracted viewers, and during the 1990s, Nightly News battled for the viewership lead with World News Tonight. By 1997, NBC Nightly News had solidified its first place standing in the ratings, a spot it would retain solely for ten years. The once-dominant CBS Evening News, anchored by Dan Rather, had lost a substantial portion of the audience it held during the Cronkite era and slid to third place in the viewership wars.

In May 2002, Brokaw announced his retirement as anchor of Nightly News, to take effect shortly after the Presidential election in 2004. During this last time helming the network's Presidential election coverage, NBC graphic designers created images of a giant electoral map on the ice rink at Rockefeller Plaza, and cherry-pickers tallied the electoral vote count on the facade of the GE Building. Brokaw's final broadcast took place on December 1, 2004, ending 22 years on the Nightly News desk and a 21-year run as the network's chief newsman – a record tenure in NBC's history.

Brian Williams (2004–present)[edit]

Brian Williams, a frequent substitute for Brokaw on Nightly News, succeeded him as the program's permanent anchor on December 2, 2004. The program held onto the #1 ratings spot among the network evening newscasts from Williams' first day, averaging about 10 million viewers each week until February 2007, when it slipped behind its closest competitor, World News with Charles Gibson. However, Nightly News regained the lead a few months later; it has now been America's most-watched evening newscast for over a decade.

Williams rose to new levels of popularity for his live spot reporting during and after the 2005 hurricane season. With the transition to Williams, the show recognized its past in its opening seconds, with small photos of past anchors and sets and the voices of John Cameron Swayze, Huntley, Brinkley, Chancellor and Brokaw, as well as an orchestral version of the "G-E-C" NBC Chimes serving as an intro bumper, before going into the opening headlines summary read by Williams; this montage was discontinued on September 17, 2007. On December 4, 2006, Nightly News was presented with "limited commercial interruptions" through a sponsorship arrangement with Philips, marking the first time in its 36-year history that the newscast experimented with reduced advertising.

NBC Nightly News control room.

Since Williams was appointed main anchor of the program, Lester Holt and Kate Snow have often substituted while Williams is on vacation or on assignment; other substitute anchors include or have included Savannah Guthrie, Tamron Hall, Harry Smith, Jenna Wolfe, Erica Hill, Hoda Kotb, Natalie Morales and Jenna Bush Hager, and previously Ann Curry, Campbell Brown, David Gregory, Carl Quintanilla, Amy Robach and John Seigenthaler.

NBC Nightly News began broadcasting in high definition on March 26, 2007, becoming the first of the three network evening news programs to make the transition (the CBS Evening News began broadcasting in HD on January 7, 2008; ABC World News Tonight began broadcasting in HD on August 25, 2008, during its coverage of the 2008 Democratic National Convention). Most news video from on-remote locations continued to be shot in standard definition at the time, while the network's news bureaus underwent a conversion to HD, which was completed in 2009.

The Nightly News set in Studio 3C, which had been in use since January 27, 1992, was retired on May 4, 2007. The broadcast temporarily relocated to Studio 8G, on the same set used for the studio segments seen during the network's Sunday Night Football broadcasts and its pregame show, and where NBC's 2006 Congressional election coverage originated. after months of construction, Studio 3C was re-opened on October 22, 2007, with the introduction of a new set for Nightly News; sister cable network MSNBC's new set in Studio 3A was also inaugurated at that time. On October 24, 2011, the broadcast moved to Studio 3B, which also served as the homebase of Williams' short-lived newsmagazine for NBC, Rock Center.

2013 Lester Holt interim[edit]

On August 6, 2013, Williams went on medical leave from NBC News in order to undergo knee replacement surgery. Weekend anchor Lester Holt substituted on the weeknight broadcasts while Williams recovered until his return to the program on September 2, 2013.[1][6]

Embellishment controversies/suspension[edit]

On February 4, 2015, Williams apologized on the program for having “conflated” on numerous occasions an account that he had been aboard a Chinook helicopter shot down by enemy fire from a rocket-propelled grenade while covering the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, when he was in fact aboard a helicopter that followed behind it. This came after he received criticism by U.S. soldiers for embellishing the story when a segment from the January 30 broadcast recounting the incident was posted on the program's Facebook page.[7][8][9] The revelation spurred negative press towards Williams, including some asking for him to be fired by NBC News, although Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, stated that that “persecuting [Williams] over this mistake will do little to help our veterans and service members”.[10]

Amid that controversy and questions over Williams' claims that made regarding his experiences while reporting from New Orleans on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, including that he contracted dysentery from accidentally ingesting flood water, the news division decided to launch an internal investigation into the matter that would be conducted through its investigative unit. On February 7, 2015, Williams stated in a memo to NBC News staff that he would take himself "off the daily broadcast for the next several days," with Lester Holt substituting for him on the weeknight broadcasts.[11][12][13]

On February 10, 2015, Brian Williams was suspended without pay for six months due to the controversy which arose after he came under fire for fabricating a story about his reporting on the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. Williams claimed to have been reporting in Iraq in 2002 when the helicopter he was traveling on was hit by an RPG and he was forced to land. He had told the story several times, including on the Late Show with David Letterman and on NBC Nightly News only a few nights before several war veterans who had been with Williams in 2002 claimed that Williams had not been present at the time of the crash, but showed up about an hour later to report on it. Williams issued an apology, saying he had "misremembered" the story in his head and it had been a genuine accident, but many critics accused Williams of fabricating the story and called for his resignation. Brian later announced that he would be taking some time off because he had become "too much a part of the news."[14][15]

On February 10, 2015, due to the suspension of Brian Williams, it was announced that weekend anchor Lester Holt would anchor the program in the interim.[16]

Weekend editions[edit]

NBC first offered a Saturday evening newscast in 1961, with Sander Vanocur anchoring the NBC Saturday Night Report. Four years later, NBC correspondents Ray Scherer and Robert MacNeil were partnered at the anchor desk on The Scherer-MacNeil Report on Saturdays, continuing until 1967. At that time, the network replaced it with a second weekend airing of The Frank McGee Report, which had been airing on Sundays for several years by that point.[17] The Saturday edition of the Report ran for about a year and a half.

On January 4, 1969, the Huntley-Brinkley Report was expanded to Saturday evenings, with the main anchors working solo on alternating weeks. When lower-than-expected ratings occurred, the network pulled the pair off Saturdays and assigned others such as McGee and Vanocur to anchor the broadcast. On August 2, 1970, two days after the weekday Huntley-Brinkley broadcast ended, the network expanded its evening newscast to Sundays, which also replaced the Sunday broadcast of The Frank McGee Report. For the first year after the Sunday broadcast began, Chancellor, Brinkley and McGee rotated of the program as they did on weeknights; there were no separate weekend anchors. The Saturday and Sunday broadcasts use the respective titles NBC Saturday Night News and NBC Sunday Night News until sometime in the 1970s, when they adopted the NBC Nightly News name.

When Chancellor became sole anchor of the weeknight editions in August 1971, a separate anchor was named for the weekend editions. Weekend anchors have included the following:

As noted, Holt anchors the weeknight newscast on an interim basis during Williams' suspension, with rotating anchors including Natalie Morales, Peter Alexander and Carl Quintanilla on weekends. Prior to his suspension, Williams occasionally anchored the weekend editions in the event of a major news story, or when NBC broadcast a major sports event, such as the Olympic Games.

The weekend editions may occasionally be abbreviated or preempted due to NBC Sports telecasts (such as golf tournaments and Notre Dame football games) that overrun into the program's time slot.


Bill Hanrahan handled the announcing duties for the newscast until his retirement in 1983, as he had done for the predecessor Huntley-Brinkley Report. The next announcer for the program was long-time NBC staff announcer Howard Reig. He retired to Florida in 2005, but a recording he had made before his retirement was used on the program until December 14, 2007. When the show was broadcast on remote or a new substitute anchor was used, Reig recorded a new introduction in a Miami studio. Since Holt took over as anchor, the weekend editions have been voiced by Bill Wolff, who had also worked occasionally on special weekday editions when Reig was unavailable. On December 17, 2007, the weeknight broadcast introduced an opening by Academy Award winning actor/producer Michael Douglas.[18]

Theme music[edit]

  • "Huntley-Brinkley Report/NBC Nightly News Ticker" (August 3, 1970 – November 10, 1972; the theme had been used since 1962, when the program was still The Huntley-Brinkley Report)
  • "NBC News Ticker" (November 13, 1972 – April 22, 1977)
  • "NBC TV-Radio Newspulse" by Fred Weinberg Productions (April 25–September 5, 1977)
  • "NBC Nightly News" by Henry Mancini (September 6, 1977 – April 2, 1982)
  • "NBC News" by Joseph Paul Sicurella, Tony Smythe, and Bob Christianson (1979–1982 as a bumper; April 5, 1982 – September 6, 1985 as main theme)
  • "The Mission" by John Williams (September 9, 1985–present)

Anchors of the weekday version[edit]

  • John Chancellor (former)
  • Tom Brokhaw (former)
  • Brian Williams – anchor and managing editor (2004–present; currently suspended)
  • Lester Holt – interim weekday anchor (February 9, 2015—present); primary weekend anchor (2007–present)

Notable incidents[edit]

In September 2001, a letter containing anthrax was addressed to then NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw as part of the 2001 anthrax attacks. Brokaw was not harmed, but two NBC News employees were infected.

On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package containing a "multimedia manifesto" from Cho Seung-hui, the gunman responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre that occurred two days earlier, the largest school shooting and spree killing in American history. Upon the package's discovery, NBC News handed the package over to federal authorities. The specific details of the package contained a DVD disc of Cho reading from a typed manifesto (also in the package), as well as more than 40 pictures of Cho brandishing weapons, including the two handguns believed to have been used in the massacre. Some of the package's contents were shown, albeit copied from the originals and edited for profanity, on the April 18 edition of NBC Nightly News, with anchor Brian Williams and NBC chief justice correspondent Pete Williams (no relation to Brian) examining the package's contents in the opening moments of the broadcast.

On November 29, 2011, a fire alarm went off in the studio a few seconds into the Nightly News Eastern Time Zone broadcast.[19] Despite the false alarm, Brian Williams continued to anchor throughout the entire broadcast. Once the alarm had been turned off, Williams redid the broadcast for the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones, and other select stations.[20] NBC News apologized for the incident on the program's Twitter account:

International broadcast[edit]

In Europe, NBC Nightly News is broadcast live on CNBC Europe at 12:30 a.m. CET (11:30 p.m. GMT). It also airs on the 24-hour news network OSN News in North Africa and the Middle East, with the weekday editions airing immediately after their original telecast in the U.S. and the weekend edition being simulcast live.[22]

In the Philippines, NBC Nightly News airs Mondays through Fridays at 8:30 a.m. (after Daybreak), Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. and Sundays at 10:00 a.m. local time; it is also rebroadcast at 5:30 p.m. each weeknight, 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays, 4:30 a.m. on Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10:00 p.m. on Sundays and daily at 1:30 a.m. local time on 9TV (formerly as Talk TV and Solar News Channel).

In Hong Kong, the program is broadcast live (or delayed) on TVB Pearl daily at 07:30 Hong Kong Time (corresponding to 18:30, or 6:30 p.m., in the Eastern Time Zone of the U.S.).

The East Coast feed of the program is broadcast in Bermuda on local NBC affiliate VSB-TV in the British Overseas Territory.


NBC Nightly News is also available worldwide as an audio podcast,[23] and can be streamed on demand from the NBC News website[24] the night of its original broadcast after 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. On January 25, 2015, NBC began indicating that the video podcast of the program would be discontinued[25] and refers users to the news division's website or mobile apps to view editions of Nightly News on mobile devices, although such apps are not compatible with devices that feature podcast support such as the Apple TV or Roku. The video podcast was discontinued on February 14, 2015.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Brian Williams takes off from 'NBC Nightly News' for knee surgery". Los Angeles Times. August 1, 2013. 
  2. ^ Source: USPS.
  3. ^ Bill Carter (April 1, 2010). "Olympics Help NBC's News Shows to Ratings Win". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Chris Ariens. "Evening News Ratings". TVNewser. Mediabistro.com. Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ "A Note from Deborah Turness". NBC News. February 10, 2015. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Brian Williams Plans 'Nightly News' Return After Labor Day". The Hollywood Reporter. August 29, 2013. 
  7. ^ Paul Farhi (February 4, 2015). "Brian Williams admits that his story of coming under fire while in Iraq was false". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2015. 
  8. ^ Nina Golgowski (February 5, 2015). "Soldiers blasted Brian Williams about Iraq War story, calling him a ‘liar’ and ‘a fake’ ahead of news anchor's confession". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2015. 
  9. ^ Emily Steel (February 6, 2015). "Brian Williams Faces ‘Fact-Checking’ Inquiry at NBC". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2015. 
  10. ^ Hal Boedeker (February 6, 2015). "Should Brian Williams be fired?". Orlando Sentinel (Tribune Publishing). Retrieved February 8, 2015. 
  11. ^ Richard Rainey (February 6, 2015). "NBC anchor Brian Williams may not have misremembered Katrina flooding after all". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved February 8, 2015. 
  12. ^ Emily Steel (February 6, 2015). "Brian Williams Faces ‘Fact-Checking’ Inquiry at NBC". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  13. ^ Stephen Battaglio (February 8, 2015). "Brian Williams takes leave of absence from NBC News over Iraq war story". Los Angeles Times. 
  14. ^ "Brian Williams, Retreading Memories From a Perch Too Public". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Will Brian Williams return to the NBC Nightly News? - CNN Video". CNN. 8 February 2015. 
  16. ^ Emily Steele (10 February 2015). "Brian Williams Suspended From NBC for 6 Months Without Pay". New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Castleman and Podrazik, The TV Schedule Book, McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, 1984
  18. ^ "Michael Douglas is NBC 'Nightly News' announcer". USA Today. December 18, 2007. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  19. ^ Dean Praetorius (November 30, 2011). "Brian Williams Fire Alarm Accident: Sirens Sound During 'NBC Nightly News' Broadcast (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. 
  20. ^ "Fire Alarm Interrupts ‘NBC Nightly News’". TVNewser. Mediabistro.com. November 29, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Welcome to Twitter - Login or Sign up". twitter.com. 
  22. ^ "OSN – News". Osn.com. Retrieved January 24, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Connecting to the iTunes Store". Apple. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  24. ^ Mark Wilson. "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams". NBCNews.com. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  25. ^ "NBC Nightly News (video)". NBC. Retrieved January 25, 2015. 

External links[edit]