Prepare to crown Prince Charles. At least for February.
Barring a major surprise, Charlie Gibson's ABC World News will win the February ratings sweeps, which concluded last night.
Moreover, it will be a clean sweep for ABC. (Cue clarion call.)
World News will finish No. 1 for the month in both total viewers and in its target audience of 25-to-54-year-olds. The last time ABC turned that particular double play was in November 1996.
The last time NBC's once-untouchable Nightly News ended up No. 2 in a sweeps month (February, May and November) was in November '01, under anchor Tom Brokaw.
Lest we forget, Katie Couric's CBS Evening News will conclude February at No. 3.
Until last week, Brokaw's successor, Brian Williams, had won 21 of 23 weeks this season, including the first 20 in a row. Overall, Nightly had led all comers for 132 of the past 138 weeks, NBC says.
Nobody's talking publicly, but NBC suits are nervous. Buzz at 30 Rock is that Nightly boss John Reiss is toast.
No comment from NBC. Reiss didn't return calls.
With World News on a roll, you might think executive producer Jon Banner would be euphorically projecting a more permanent reversal of fortune.
You would be wrong.
"I'm not ready to go there yet," says the ever-understated Banner. "The sweeps aren't over yet. We have a lot of work left to do. What is a trend is that we've had 10 continuous weeks of solid growth, year to year. That's especially pleasing to us."
World News won last week's race with 9.38 million total viewers, including 3.02 million in the 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. It marked World News' second weekly win in both categories in February.
Nightly News last week averaged 9.07 million total viewers (2.73 million in the demo); CBS Evening News had 6.91 million (2.18 million in the demo.)
Banner attributes World News' resurgence almost entirely to Gibson, who debuted in May.
"It's taken some time for the audience to realize Charlie is on World News and not on Good Morning America anymore. We're a big country."
Also, Gibson is more comfortable with the broadcast and has "taken ownership" of it, in Banner's words. He's involved in every aspect, from choosing stories to writing scripts.
Banner denies that lead-in Oprah Winfrey is a factor. Fewer than 50 percent of ABC affiliates carry the 4 p.m. show, and even so, he says, it's off the air 90 minutes before World News goes on.
Moving right along, former World News coanchor Bob Woodruff last night did his first piece for the broadcast since he was almost killed in a bomb blast in Iraq more than a year ago.
The story was an update on a U.S. soldier who suffered a traumatic brain injury similar to Woodruff's. It had original reporting in addition to footage used in Woodruff's prime-time special Monday.
Banner says he hopes to use Woodruff once a week "for the immediate future."
NBC Spicing up. Victoria Beckham (aka Posh Spice) will star in a new NBC reality show from the producers of American Idol, the network announced yesterday.
Maybe she'll tell us what she wants, what she really, really wants. The show - no title yet - will follow Posh's glamorous life as she and soccer-hub David Beckham move across the pond from London to L.A. Six 30-minute episodes are ordered, scheduled to premiere this summer, says NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly.
Beckham's show "is really something different, it's pushing the boundaries and I think it's going to surprise a lot of people," the Posh one says in a statement.
Short stuff. Industrial-size Vincent Pastore, 60, best known as the late "Big Pussy" on HBO's The Sopranos, has withdrawn from ABC's Dancing With the Stars after one week because he couldn't handle the physical demands of training for a 10-week season, he says. . . . Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which just won Oscars for best documentary feature and best original song for Melissa Etheridge's "I Need To Wake Up," will debut on Showtime at 8 p.m. March 11. A special Gore update produced last year as a follow-up to the documentary's release will run at 10 p.m.