The 2020-21 prime time TV season is complete, with Dateline NBC and ABC’s 20/20 splitting first place in the Friday night newsmagazine ratings race.
In its 29th season on NBC, Dateline averaged more total viewers than 20/20 — 4.1 million versus 4 million, according to Most Current Nielsen data (live-plus-7).
Dateline ranked No. 1 the previous season (2019-2020) in all three key categories — total viewers, A25-54 and A18-49 demographics. That wasn’t the case for the most-recent TV season, however. 20/20 averaged more adults 25-54 and 18-49 than its NBC rival in 2020-21. This represents the first time 20/20 as out-delivered Dateline in these two key adult categories during a broadcast season since 2014-15.
Both shows lost a significant number of viewers from the prior season. ABC fell -5% in total viewers, whereas Dateline fell -17% (but still won the measurement). When it came to audiences under-55, the drop off was worse, which one might expect as cord-cutting in prime time continues. 20/20 shed -14% of its A25-54 audience from the previous season, while Dateline was down by more than a quarter (-26%). When it comes to adults 18-49, still the go-to demo for prime time entertainment programming, 20/20 fell -13%, whereas Dateline was down by a whopping -29%.
A few 2020-21 season highlights for Dateline include Natalie Morales making her debut as an official Dateline correspondent, Peacock launching a Dateline 24/7 channel and Dateline debuting its first ever multi-night true-crime series, The Widower.
A few 20/20 highlights for the season include Janice Johnston being named executive producer of the prime time newsmagazine back in January, the show’s partnership with the Louisville Courier Journal on a Breonna Taylor story, which went on to earn a Peabody nomination, and the 20/20 George Floyd special.
Friday night newsmagazine Nielsen numbers for the 2020-21 TV season:
|ABC (9-11 p.m.)||NBC (9-11 p.m.)|
|• Total Viewers:||4,073,000||4,106,000|
Source: Nielsen, Live+7, 9/21/2020-5/21/2021, Regular titles only, Excludes repeats.