Q2 2020 Evening News Ratings: World News Tonight Is America’s Most-Watched Evening Newscast, Both in Total Viewers and A25-54

By A.J. Katz 

In Q2 2019, the race between ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News to capture the most adults 25-54 came down to the final day. While World News Tonight dominated the quarter when it came to Total Viewers, it was Nightly News that was able to edge its ABC counterpart in the demo on that final day, and won the quarter by just +1,000 viewers.

Q2 2020 was a different story. Not only did the David Muir-led World News Tonight finish No. 1 in Total Viewers for the 13th straight quarter, but the newscast also finished No. 1 among Adults 25-54, beating both NBC and CBS by a commanding margin, and doing so for the second consecutive quarter.

That’s according to the most current viewership data from Nielsen.


Speaking of second quarters, compared to Q2 of last year, numbers for each of the three major newscasts were predictably up. It’s no secret as to why. Seismic global news events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and police brutality protests in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, not to mention this being a presidential election year, are reasons for year-over-year audience growth.

Q1 2020 had its own share of massive news events, including the early days of the pandemic and before that, a presidential impeachment trial.

World News Tonight not only saw year-over-year growth, but it also saw quarter-to-quarter growth. ABC’s evening newscast averaged a whopping 10.38 million Total Viewers, its largest quarterly audience in 17 years, and 2.13 million A25-54 viewers for Q2 2020. That’s +27% in Total Viewers and +36% in the demo versus Q2 2019, and +6% in Total Viewers and +6% in the demo versus Q1 2020.

Overall, World News Tonight is having its most-watched season in 17 years and strongest key Adults 25-54 performances in five years—since the 2003-04 and the 2015-16 seasons, respectively.

NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt finished in second place behind WNT in the key measurements, after squeaking out a Q2 2019 win in the A25-54 demo. In Q2 2020, the evening newscast averaged 8.92 million viewers in total to go with 1.95 million Adults 25-54.

Nightly News was +21% in Total Viewers and +24% in the key demo versus Q2 2019, and +2% in Total Viewers but flat in demo viewers versus Q1 of 2020.

Despite finishing in second, Q2 2020 saw Nightly’s best Total Viewer quarterly delivery since Q1 2016, and its best Q2 delivery since 2004.

First-run broadcasts of the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell averaged 6.28 million Total Viewers and 1.17 million A25-54 viewers in Q2 2020. That’s +15% in Total Viewers and +12% in the A25-54 demo versus Q2 of 2019, but flat in Total Viewers and -3% in A25-54 demo viewers versus Q1 of 2020.

It’s worth remembering that O’Donnell was not the Evening News anchor in Q2 2019. After the departure of Jeff Glor from Evening News on May 10, 2019, the broadcast featured a rotation of anchors before O’Donnell took over permanently on July 15, 2019.

It should be noted that CBS took out and retitled the Friday CBS Evening News broadcast for four out of the final seven weeks in Q2. As one can probably imagine, Friday is traditionally the lowest-rated night of the week for evening news, and this likely helped the newscast’s Q2 ratings a bit. While CBS is well within its right to make this move, neither ABC nor NBC did in Q2.

Nevertheless, the three major evening newscasts averaged a total of 25.58 million viewers in Q2 2020, +3% from Q1 and +22% from Q2 of last year. The newscasts averaged a total of 5.25 million Adults 25-54 per night, +1% versus Q1 and +25% versus Q2 of 2019.

*NOTE: Nielsen ratings for ABC, NBC and CBS include additional airings at various times during the day, and in a variety of markets, large and small.

Numbers for Q2, 2020:

• Total Viewers: 10,381,000 8,920,000 6,275,000
• A25-54: 2,133,000 1,948,000 1,173,000




Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54 Live + SD Current Week (w/o 6/22/20), Previous Week (w/o 6/15/20) and Year-Ago Week (w/o 6/24/19). Most Current: 2019-2020 Season (9/23/19-6/28/20) and 2018-2019 Season (9/24/18-6/30/19).  Live+7/Most Current – 2Q20: 3/30 – 6/28/20, – 2Q19: 4/1 – 6/30/19and 1Q19: 12/30/19 – 3/29/20. Nielsen ratings for ABC, NBC and CBS include additional airings in select markets. Averages based on regular telecasts. Broadcast and Cable ranker for w/o 6/22/20 based on Total Day.