Q1 2021 Sunday Shows: Meet the Press, Face the Nation Split First Place for 3rd Consecutive Quarter

By A.J. Katz 

CBS and NBC earned a split decision in the first quarter Sunday show ratings race.

This was also true in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2020.

With Margaret Brennan as moderator, CBS’ Face the Nation averaged nearly 3.7 million total viewers in Q1 2021. That’s No. 1 among the Sunday shows – An average of +35,000 more total viewers than NBC, and +377,000 more than ABC.


FTN has been the most-watched Sunday show for three consecutive quarters.

NBC Meet the Press with Chuck Todd continues to deliver the most adults 25-54 of the Sunday public affairs programs. The broadcast averaged 782,000 adults 25-54 in Q1 2021, roughly +12% more than ABC’s This Week, and +13% more than CBS Face the Nation. MTP marked its 21nd consecutive quarter as No. 1 in the demo, ahead of both ABC and CBS. A remarkable winning streak, especially considering it doesn’t have a CBS Sunday Morning type of lead-in.

ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos finished third behind CBS and NBC in total viewers, but second among adults 25-54, edging Face the Nation for the 4th time in the last 5 years during a 1st quarter and for the 3rd quarter in a row.

The ABC Sunday public affairs program turned in its most-watched first quarter since 2017, and gave Meet the Press a run for its money in the demo – delivering its closest 1st quarter margin since 2015.

Fox News Sunday with anchor Chris Wallace averaged just 1.29 million total viewers and 328,000 from the key A25-54 demo in Q1. The cable replays averaged 1.31 million total viewers and 230,000 viewers from the demo. Combined, that’s around 2.6 million total viewers 558,000 A25-54 demo viewers.

Compared to Q4 of 2020, Face the Nation shed less than -1% of its total viewers, and fell -4% in the key demo. Meet the Press actually closed the gap with Nation, growing +2% in total viewers and +1% in the demo. This Week shed -3% of its total viewers and fell -4% in the demo. Fox News Sunday had a rough quarter, down -9% in total viewers and -15% in the demo.

Relative to Q1 of 2020, the shows lost younger viewers, but continue to improve among older viewers. Face the Nation grew +5% in total viewers, but fell -7% in adults 25-54. Meet the Press held flat in total viewers, and dropped -13% in adults 25-54. This Week, like Face the Nation, grew +5% in total viewers and fell -7% in adults 25-54. Finally, Fox News Sunday shed -11% of its total viewers, and was -21% in the demo.

Q1 2021 Sunday Public Affairs Show Ratings:

Network Program Total Viewers A25-54
CBS Face the Nation (1/2 hr)  3,662,000 687,000
NBC Meet the Press 3,627,000 782,000
ABC This Week 3,285,000 694,000
FOX Fox News Sunday 1,286,000 328,000

Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI (Total Viewers and Adults 25-54);  Most Current – 1Q21: 12/28/20 – 3/28/21, 1Q20: 12/30/19 – 3/29/20 and 4Q20: 9/21 – 12/27/20.    *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.