ABC’s 20/20 Is No. 1 Friday Primetime Newsmagazine for 2021-’22 Season

By A.J. Katz 

ABC’s 20/20 earned the Nielsen ratings trifecta for the 2021-’22 broadcast TV season, beating rival Dateline NBC in average total viewers, the adults 25-54 TV news demo and the adults 18-49 primetime entertainment demo.

This is a change from the 2020-’21 broadcast season, when Dateline ranked No. 1 in total viewers—and 20/20 won the A25-54 and A18-49 demos.

The last time ABC’s Friday night newsmagazine won all three of the aforementioned measurements was the 2018-’19 broadcast season.


How did the 20/20 and Dateline fare this past season relative to 2020-’21? Both shows actually gained average total viewers, 20/20 just gained more. The ABC show gained +3% from 2020-’21, whereas NBC was up less than +1%. The story was slightly different when it came to viewers under-55, which one might expect as cord-cutting among younger viewers in prime time continues. 20/20 shed -1% of its A25-54 audience from the previous season, whereas Dateline was down by -4%. When it came to adults 18-49, still the go-to demo for prime time entertainment programming, 20/20 fell less than -1%, whereas Dateline was down -6%.

Friday night newsmagazine Nielsen numbers for the 2021-’22 TV season:

ABC (9-11 p.m.) NBC (9-11 p.m.)
• Total Viewers: 4,210,000 4,119,000
• A25-54: 1,176,000 1,067,000
• A18-49: 859,000 758,000





Source: The Nielsen Company, Live+7/Most Current Program Ratings.  “20/20” premiered on 10/8/21.  2021 -2022 Broadcast Season (9/20/21 – 5/25/22) and 2020 -2021 Broadcast Season (9/21/20 – 5/26/21).  Beginning 8/31/20, national ratings also include Out of Home (OOH) viewing.  Prior to 8/31/20, ratings do not include OOH viewing.   

Some editorial highlights for each show in 2021-’22:

On the 20/20 front, Diane Sawyer had exclusive first interviews with children from the Turpin family – found captive in their California home under harrowing conditions after one escaped and called 911. The broadcast averaged 9.5 million viewers, the show’s largest audience in six years (per live+3 data).

20/20 delved into the events of the deadly shooting on the set of Rust—and featured new interviews and George Stephanopoulos’ first interview with Alec Baldwin.

On heels of the high-profile trial, Ahmaud Arbery’s family reflected on his life and his mother’s quest for truth and justice in a special edition of 20/20.

Over at Dateline, the legendary newsmagazine celebrated its 30th anniversary, won the May 2022 sweeps period and debuted the No. 1 podcast The Thing About Helen & Olga, which has received more than six million downloads since its November release. Dateline’s 2019 podcast, The Thing About Pam, also returned to No. 1 following the NBC eponymous series, starring Oscar-winning actress Renée Zellweger. The series, inspired by Dateline’s podcast, is NBC’s No. 1 new show of the season in the 18-49 demo and the pilot episode currently ranks as NBC’s top digital launch in the network’s history.

Additionally, over 89 billion minutes of Dateline were consumed across TV and digital platforms, which includes NBC, cable and broadcast syndication and Peacock’s Dateline 24/7 channel. This marked an increase of +39% compared to last season.