Week of Jan. 4 Evening News Ratings: World News Tonight Draws Largest Audience During a Chaotic Week

By A.J. Katz Comment

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir was the No. 1 evening newscast for the week of Jan. 4, 2021 in the relevant categories: Total viewers (10.1 million on average) and adults 25-54 (2.1 million on average).

That marks 111 consecutive weeks that ABC’s evening newscast has averaged a larger total audience than its NBC and CBS evening competition.

World News Tonight isseeing its most-watched season in 17 years and strongest Adults 25-54 performance in 3 years—since the 2003-2004 and the 2017-2018 seasons, respectively.

Wednesday night was a historic night, news-wise, with the networks delivering wall to wall coverage of the attacks on the U.S. Capitol; coverage which continued through the typical evening news block. NBC Nightly News is the only newscast that was not rated on Wednesday because the network was in uninterrupted special live breaking news coverage and had no commercials (Nielsen can’t rate a broadcast if there are no commercials). NBC did manage to beat ABC and CBS in prime time viewers on Wednesday (as reported last week). ABC World News Tonight and CBS Evening News, on the other hand, were rated based on the usual 5-day week.

The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt  remained the second-ranked evening newscast last week in total viewers, averaging nearly 8.6 million total viewers, making it the No. 4 most-watched show of the week in all of TV (excluding sports and syndication). The newscast also averaged nearly 1.8 million adults 25-54, No. 2 overall.

Preliminary data from Nielsen shows that CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell averaged 7.5 million total viewers and 1.6 million adults 25-54 for the week of Jan. 4, 2021. That’s a huge number for the newscast. However, there seems to be a Nielsen data processing issue for the Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 broadcast of Evening News, which has an impact on the final weekly ratings. As of now, the data company is reporting that the CBS Evening News drew more than 12 million viewers on Wednesday, the night of the siege; but that will change. We hope Nielsen will be able to resolve the issue and we will be able to update this post in the near future.

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*UPDATE: (Thursday, 12:45 p.m. ET)

Updated data for Nielsen is in, and The CBS Evening News ended up averaging 6.9 million total viewers and 1.5 million adults 25-54 for the week of January 4. That particular Wednesday broadcast 9.6 million total viewers, not 12+ million. The 9.6 million is the largest average total audience for the broadcast since 2015.

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When compared with the prior week (which was the week between Christmas and New Year’s), WNT was up +4% in total viewers and +10% among adults 25-54. Nightly News was -1% among total viewers, and -1% among adults 25-54 (remember Nightly News was preempted on Wednesday for uninterrupted coverage/an NBC News special report). As of now, CBS Evening News was +19% among total viewers, and +40% among adults 25-54.

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*UPDATE: Using updated Nielsen data, CBS Evening News is up +10% among total viewers and +29% among adults 25-54 vs. the week prior. NBC Nightly News is -1% in total viewers and -1% among adults 25-54. ABC World News Tonight is +4% in total viewers and +10% among adults 25-54.

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Compared with the same week one year ago , World News Tonight was up +4% in total viewers and +4% among adults 25-54. Nightly News was flat  in total viewers but -3% among adults 25-54. As of now, CBS Evening News was +22% in total viewers and +42% among adults 25-54. The comparable week last year included reporting on the U.S. drone strike that killed Iraqi general Qasem Soleimani, and the Iranian strike on a Ukraine International Airlines plane. Norah O’Donnell also had an interview with vp Mike Pence that week.

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*UPDATE: Using updated Nielsen data, CBS Evening News is up +13% among total viewers and +30% among adults 25-54 vs. the same week one year ago. NBC Nightly News is flat in total viewers but -3% among adults 25-54. ABC World News Tonight is +4% in total viewers and +4% among adults 25-54.

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Below, the Nielsen live-plus-same-day averages for the week of Jan. 4, 2021:

ABC NBC CBS
• Total Viewers: 10,120,000 8,563,000 6,903,000
• A25-54: 2,114,000 1,764,000 1,501,000

 

 

 

Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54  Live + SD Current Week (w/o 1/4/21), Previous Week (w/o 12/28/20) and Year-Ago Week (w/o 1/6/20). Most Current: 2020 -2021 Season (9/21/20-1/10/21) and 2019-2020 Season (9/23/13-1/12/20). Nielsen ratings for ABC, NBC and CBS include additional airings in select markets. Beginning 8/31/20, national ratings also include Out of Home (OOH) viewing. Averages based on regular telecasts. 

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