UPDATED: More than 10.5 million viewers watched “60 Minutes” on Sunday night — including anchorman Scott Pelley’s story about the doping allegations leveled against cycling star Lance Armstrong. In fact, CBS aired two hours of “60 Minutes” Sunday, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (6-7c), and a “Special Edition” from 8 to 9 (7-8c). The two hours averaged 10.541 million viewers, according to Nielsen overnights. The Pelley story was seen in the 7-8 hour.
PREVIOUSLY: CBS News made the most of incoming anchorman Scott Pelley’s much talked-about investigation of cycling superstar Lance Armstrong, who’s been dogged by allegations he used performance-enhancing substances to become a repeat winner of the Tour de France.
Two-thirds of Sunday night’s edition of “60 Minutes” was devoted to Pelley’s scoop – which centered mainly on an interview with a former teammate of Armstrong’s, Tyler Hamilton, in which Hamilton said he personally witnessed Armstrong self-administer the substances.
With Pelley getting ready to step in as anchor of “The CBS Evening News” in just two weeks – on June 6 – CBS made sure his Armstrong story got extra exposure. Excerpts of the interview were featured on “Evening News” twice last week – including Thursday’s broadcast, which happened to be outgoing anchor Katie Couric’s last show.
The story generated buzz all weekend, even before it aired, as Armstrong late last week reportedly pulled out of a planned interview with the CBS news magazine in which he would have had an opportunity to refute his ex-teammate’s charges. And Armstrong’s attorney, Mark Fabiani, issued a statementcondemning CBS. “CBS’s reporting on this subject has been replete with broken promises, false assurances and selective reliance on witnesses upon whom no reputable journalist would rely,” the attorney’s statement said.
“Our reporters have done a first-class job,” countered Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes.”
Will the controversy and resultant publicity surrounding Pelley’s Armstrong scoop help him drive the ratings upward for “Evening News” when he takes over as anchor next month? That depends in part on how many people watched “60 Minutes” on Sunday night.
And we won’t know those numbers until the ratings come out on Monday.