10/10/2006 at 08:00 AM EDT
Nielsen isn't loving Katie Couric, whose ratings have consistently fallen in the five weeks she's been on the air as anchor of the CBS Evening News.
Last week the former Today
star's broadcast averaged 7.04 million viewers, putting her in third place
behind NBC's Nightly News,
with 8.56 million, and ABC's World News,
with 7.97 million, the Associated Press reports based on Nielsen Media Research.
Despite the erosion, Couric's network is looking on the bright side, noting that the CBS Evening News
is the only one of the three network newscasts to improve its viewership for the same week compared to a year ago. Last year, NBC edged CBS by 2.2 million.
"Where we were last week or even in the weeks to come is not as important as where we are next year and even the year after that," CBS News President Sean McManus tells AP. "As we have said from the very beginning, we are focused on the long term and on making slow and steady progress, which we are doing."
In her debut broadcast
the day after Labor Day, Couric pulled in 13.6 million viewers.
Last week ABC's World News
– which already had received widespread coverage for breaking the Fla. Rep. Mark Foley page scandal – sent anchor Charles Gibson to Amish country to follow up the school-shooting story.
CBS considered dispatching Couric to Pennsylvania as well, according to Rome Hartman, executive producer of the CBS Evening News,
but with the congressional scandal, the Amish tragedy wasn't the only major story of the week, he said – adding that he believed CBS's reporting on the shooting on the day it occurred was more extensive than that of the competition.
Asked whether he thought keeping Couric bound to her desk in New York ultimately hurt CBS, Hartman answered: "You can overthink things, and I'm trying not to, because it's such a long-haul deal."