ABC World News Tonight with David Muir was the No. 1 evening newscast for the 2019-2020 broadcast season, both in average total viewers (9.4 million) and among adults 25-54 (1.9 million).
The newscast won all 52 weeks of the 2019-20 season in total viewers. The last time WNT won all 52 weeks of a season the 1994-95 season, when the late Peter Jennings was anchor.
That’s now 4 straight seasons at No. 1 for ABC, after NBC had won the previous 20 seasons.
Compared to the 2018-2019 season, ABC’s flagship newscast was strong, posting +9% total viewers growth, and +9% adults 25-54 growth.
Compared to the 2015-2016 season, which led up to the most previous presidential election, the newscast was +13% in total viewers and +12% among adults 25-54.
World News Tonight has also been the most-watched show on all of television over the past 6 months.
NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt finished in second place for the second consecutive season. NBC’s flagship newscast averaged 8.3 million viewers, which is largest average audience since 2015-2016, when Nightly News was still the No. 1 evening newscast across the board. Nightly averaged nearly 1.8 million adults 25-54.
Compared to 2018-2019, Nightly was +4% in total viewers and +2% among adults 25-54. Compared to 2015-2016, the broadcast lost momentum: -4% in total viewers and -16% among adults 25-54. To be fair, Q3 of 2016 included the Rio Olympics, a time when ratings for Nightly News are abnormally strong. Nightly News had just wrapped up its 20th consecutive season at No. 1, but that streak would end in 2016-2017. World News Tonight has since taken hold of the top spot, and yet to let it go.
We’ll further analyze Q3 ratings later in this story.
CBS Evening News With Norah O’Donnell, consistently the network’s No. 1 weekday show over these past 6 months, was less than+1% vs. 2018-2019 in total viewers, but was -5% among adults 25-54 vs. 2018-2019. Relative to the 2015-2016 season, Evening News -17% in total viewers and -32% among adults 25-54. Scott Pelley was still anchor of CBS Evening News during the 2015-2016 season.
On a positive note, since CBS Evening News moved to its permanent home in Washington, D.C. in 2020, the broadcast is up +5% in total viewers, year-over-year.
Click below for the averages for the previous six seasons:
Numbers for 2019-2020 broadcast season:
|• Total Viewers:||9,385,000||8,269,000||5,863,000|
How did the evening newscasts far in Q3, ratings-wise?
ABC World News Tonight was the highest-rated newscast for the quarter, unsurprisingly, averaging nearly 8.8 million total viewers and 1.7 million adults 25-54.
That’s -16% in total viewers and -21% among adults 25-54 from the previous quarter (Q2, 2020). The decline isn’t particularly surprising. Evening news viewership tends to be down in the summer relative to the spring. Plus, Q2 2020 was the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic, when America’s eyes were glued to the evening news at an almost unprecedented rate. World News Tonight averaged more than 10 million viewers during those spring months, which is unheard of for an evening newscast.
Compared to Q3 of last year, World News Tonight was +8% in total viewers, and +12% among adults 25-54. Compared to Q3 2016, the lead-up to the most recent presidential election, ABC’s flagship newscast was +14% in total viewers, and +2% among adults 25-54.
NBC Nightly News, like World News Tonight (and as we’ll show later, CBS Evening News) saw quarter-to-quarter viewership losses: -16% in total viewers and -23% among adults 25-54. Compared to Q3 2019 Nightly News was +4% in total viewers but -3% among adults 25-54. Nightly News’ sharpest decline came relative to Q3 2016, -9% in total viewers and -28% among adults 25-54. It’s worth noting that Q3 2016 included NBC’s coverage of the Rio Summer Olympics, an event which always lifts NBC Nightly News, especially when it comes to adults 25-54.
Lastly, CBS Evening News was -15% in total viewers and -18% among adults 25-54 vs. the prior quarter. Compared to Q3 of 2019, the newscast was +5% in total viewers, but -2% among adults 25-54. However, the performance this quarter was rough relative to Q3 of 2016. The broadcast was -20% in total viewers and -33% among adults 25-54.
Numbers for Q3, 2020:
|• Total Viewers:||8,756,000||7,484,000||5,336,000|
Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54 Live + SD Current Week (w/o 9/14/20), Previous Week (w/o 9/7/20) and Year-Ago Week (w/o 9/16/19). Most Current: 2019-2020 Season (9/23/19-9/21/20) and 2018-2019 Season (9/24/18-9/23/19). Most Current – 3Q20: 6/29 – 9/20/20. 2Q20: 3/30 – 6/28/20. 3Q19: 7/1 – 9/22/19. 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.