May 23 Sunday Show Ratings: CBS, ABC Split First Place

By A.J. Katz 

CBS Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week split first place in the Sunday show ratings race on May 23, 2021.

Moderated by John Dickerson (filling in for Margaret Brennan, who’s on maternity leave) Face the Nation averaged the most total viewers of any Sunday public affairs show on May 23, drawing an average of 3 million total viewers. However, the broadcast drew just 519,000 adults 25-54, fewer than ABC’s Sunday morning offering.

Face the Nation is averaging the most total viewers of any Sunday show, season to-date.


ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos finished second behind CBS in total viewers, averaging nearly 2.4 million, while edging CBS in the key A25-54 demo (522,000 to 519,000) on May 23.

That’s now back-to-back Sundays ABC’s Sunday show has ranked No. 1 in the demo. On May 16, it beat Face the Nation by +100,000 demo viewers, and Meet the Press by +78,000 –  its largest news demo victory over the NBC program since October 2020.

In addition to winning the demo this past Sunday, This Week is in the midst of its most-watched season in 4 years – since the 2016-17 season.

On Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace averaged nearly 1.1 million total viewers and 230,000 A25-54 viewers. The cable replays delivered a combined 1.1  million total viewers and 231,000 A25-54 viewers. Altogether, that’s nearly 2.2 million total and 461,000 A25-54 demo viewers.

What about Meet the Press, you ask? The Chuck Todd-moderated broadcast was pre-empted on May 23 due to English Premier League. Meet the Press has ranked No. 1 in the genre among adults 25-54 for six straight years.

Apparently many of Meet the Press’ regular viewers chose Face the Nation over This Week, because compared to the prior Sunday (May 16), Face the Nation grew by +9% in total viewers and +16% in the A25-54 demo.  This Week fell by -10% in total viewers, and shed -4% in the demo (yet still beat CBS in the measurement). Fox News Sunday dropped by -6% in total viewers, and -12% in the A25-54 demo.

Compared with the year-ago Sunday (May 24, 2020), the trend was worse, as expected in a non-election year. Face the Nation lost -7% of its average total audience, and a quarter of its A25-54 audience (-25%). This Week was down by -19% in total viewers, and -19% in the demo, while FNS shed -27% of its average total audience vs. May 24, 2020, and was -45% in the demo.

May 23, 2021 Sunday Show Ratings (Nielsen live + same-day):

Network Program Total Viewers A25-54
CBS Face the Nation (1/2 hr) 3,042,000 519,000
ABC This Week 2,365,000 522,000
FOX Fox News Sunday 1,064,000 230,000
NBC Meet the Press N/A N/A

Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI (Total Viewers and Adults 25-54); Live + SD for 5/23/21, 5/16/21 and 5/25/20 or as dated. Most Current: 2020 -2021 Season (9/21/20 – 5/23/21) and 2019 -2020 Season (9/23/19 – 5/25/20). *Beginning 8/31/20, National ratings also include Out of Home (OOH) viewing. Prior to 8/31/20, ratings do not include OOH viewing. Nielsen ratings for “This Week” include additional airings in select markets. Averages based on regular telecasts.