ABC accused of playing dirty in network news war

Industry insiders are accusing ABC of dirty tricks in the war for network news dominance, Page Six has learned.

In 2015 — when their evening news broadcasts were locked in a tight battle for the top spot — NBC got caught double-dipping to boost ratings by re-airing the “Nightly News” at 2 a.m. and then adding the viewers for both broadcasts together.

Now, with the two networks’ numbers once again locked in close combat, ratings wonks have noticed that ABC has — without fanfare — begun airing David Muir’s “World News Tonight” in LA at 3:30 p.m. (that is, when it airs live at 6:30 p.m. on the East Coast), then also airing the normal taped version at 6:30 p.m. LA time.

ABC touted a major victory Tuesday, when new Nielsen numbers showed that Muir has grabbed the most overall viewers for a second year in a row.

But insiders believe that by quietly adding a second broadcast in LA — the second-largest TV market in the country — back in July, the network has goosed those figures.

Since it started the early broadcasts in July, ABC has netted an average of about 125,000 extra viewers a night.

An industry insider told us, “The bottom line is, ‘World News Tonight’s’ numbers belong in Disney’s Land of Make Believe.”

An ABC spokesperson told us, “We are thrilled LA asked to air our newscast live at 3:30 in the afternoon. This is not about ratings, we would win handily without it. This is about the hunger for news in this moment and the strength of our newscast.”

Meanwhile, an ABC insider told us, “We’re talking about a 30,000-viewer difference over the course of an entire season. World News Tonight won by nearly a half million viewers.”

The network insider sniped, “The real story is that both Lester Holt’s ‘NBC Nightly News’ and Jeff Glor’s ‘CBS Evening News’ just scored their lowest season numbers since Nielsen started keeping records in 1991, while Muir’s ‘World News Tonight’ is the only newscast growing in all major demos.”

They said this situation isn’t “remotely close” to NBC’s 2015 double-dip, because NBC was “secretly airing their newscast in dozens of markets in the middle of the night to boost their ratings.”

This story originally appeared in the New York Post.