NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The decision by Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC on whether to bring back suspended Nightly News anchor Brian Williams could have huge implications for the network's battered news division, according to industry insiders and news analysts who say restoring credibility is an essential first step to improving its ratings.
A determination on Williams's future at NBC is expected perhaps as early as this week though expectations are high that the network will decide to replace him with long-time NBC newsman Lester Holt, host of Dateline, the network's prime time newsmagazine.
Holt has filled in for Williams since he was suspended in February for embellishing his reporting during the network's prime time news show. In the ensuing months, NBC Nightly News' standing as TV's most watched prime time newscast has been dented by ABC's World News Tonight, hosted by David Muir.
For the season just ended, the broadcast from Disney's (DIS) ABC unit averaged 2.113 million viewers for adults aged 25-54, narrowly winning in the group that advertisers most want for news programming. The NBC show averaged 2.112 million viewers in that demographic, according to Nielsen numbers.
World News Tonight also closed the gap with Nightly News among total viewership with 8.543 million people tuning in, versus NBC's 8.910 million viewers. In 2012, NBC's Today Show also lost its long-time ratings title to ABC's Good Morning America.
Williams's future at the company is also being weighed by NBC and its parent company Comcast, because the integrity of the news operation is vital to landing high-profile interviews that can translate into higher ratings, according to industry experts and analysts.