Q2 ’21 Evening News Ratings: World News Tonight Marks 6 Straight Quarters at No. 1

By A.J. Katz 

Second quarter ratings for the evening newscasts are in, and according to the most current data from Nielsen, ABC World News Tonight with David Muir averaged 7.93 million total viewers and 1.5 million adults 25-54. That’s more total viewers than the NBC and CBS evening competition for the 17th straight quarter (since Q2 2017), and more adults 25-54 than the competition for the sixth straight quarter (since Q1 2020).

ABC continues to dominate its competition, but how did the newscast fare this quarter against comparable ones?

Relative to the most recent quarter (Q1 2021), World News Tonight shed -17% of its average total audience, and -21% in the key A25-54 demo. Compared to the second quarter of last year, ABC’s evening newscast shed -24% of its average total audience, and -30% of its adults 25-54 audience

The audience decline from Q2 of 2020, in particular, makes sense. TV news delivered record ratings last spring, boosted by 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 it being a presidential election year.

What does World News Tonight look like compared to four years ago?  The broadcast actually gained +2% in total viewers, but fell by -5% in adults 25-54; as an increasing number of younger demos look for alternative ways for their news, outside of linear TV.

NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt averaged 6.55 million total viewers and 1.21 million adults 25-54 on linear in Q2 2021. That’s +33% more than CBS in total viewers, and +41% more in the key demo. Similar to ABC (and CBS, as we’ll soon see), NBC lost viewers from Q1 2021,  -18% in total viewers, and -23% among adults 25-54. Compared to the prior Q2, Nightly News shed -27% of its average total viewers and -38% of its A25-54 audience.

Relative to the same quarter four years ago, Nightly News shed -14% of its average total audience and  -30% of its A25-54 audience.

CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell averaged 4.91 million viewers in Q2 2021. That’s -18% from the prior quarter. The newscast also averaged 844,000 adults 25-54, which is -26% from the prior quarter.  The newscast shed -22% of its average total audience, and -28% of its adults 25-54 audience from the news-heavy Q2 2020. Additionally, relative to the same quarter four years ago, Evening News lost one fifth of its average total audience (-20%) and -36% of its A25-54 demo audience.

Below, the Nielsen live-plus-same-day averages for the week of Q2, 2021:

ABC NBC CBS
• Total Viewers: 7,928,000 6,549,000 4,905,000
• A25-54: 1,500,000 1,212,000 844,000

 

 

 

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir finished the week of June 21 with a 7.77 million total viewer average, to go with a 1.46 million adults 25-54 average. That’s a larger average audience than its NBC and CBS evening news counterparts both in total viewers and in the key A25-54 demo for the 65th consecutive week.

World News Tonight was also the most-watched program on U.S. TV for the third consecutive week, and aired the five-most-watched telecasts of the week: Monday (8.19 million – No. 1), Thursday (8.03 million – No. 2), Tuesday (7.93 million – No. 3), Friday (7.38 million – No. 4) and Wednesday (7.34 million – No. 5).

Compared with the previous week (week of June 14) World News Tonight held steady in total viewers, and gained +5% in the key A25-54 demo. Compared to the same week in 2020 (June 22), ABC’s evening newscast lost -13% of its average total audience, and -15% of its A25-54 demo audience.

Despite the year-over-year drop, World News Tonight holds its largest season lead over both NBC and CBS in 26 years—since the 1994-1995 season, when Peter Jennings was still anchor.

Speaking of NBC, Nightly News with Lester Holt averaged 6.34 million total viewers and 1.18 million adults 25-54 on linear this past week, making it the third-most-watched show on TV (excluding sports and syndication), and third among adults 25-54.

Compared to the prior week, NBC’s evening newscast gained +1% in total viewers, and +11% in adults 25-54. That’s more week-to-week growth than the competition. Relative to the same week in 2020, Nightly fell -15% in total viewers, and lost -23% of its A25-54 audience.

NBC’s flagship newscast streams full episodes on YouTube and is able to garner some additional eyeballs that way (eyeballs which aren’t measured by Nielsen). On YouTube, Nightly’s full episodes on YouTube earned an average of 662,000 views with the average viewer watching for more than 12 minutes. That’s according to data from Adobe Analytics and Partner Portals, and the YouTube Analytics Portal.

CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell averaged 4.73 million total viewers, and 792,000 adults 25-54 for the week. That’s a decline of -1% in total viewers, but a +2% gain in adults 25-54 from the prior week. CBS Evening News lost -12% in total viewers and -17% in A25-54 viewers from the comparable week in 2020.

That said, it was the network’s most-watched show each day last week (Monday-Friday), and No. 1 in the key demo on Friday.

Below, the Nielsen live-plus-same-day averages for the week of June 21, 2021:

ABC NBC CBS
• Total Viewers: 7,774,000 6,341,000 4,732,000
• A25-54: 1,462,000 1,184,000 792,000

 

 

 

Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54. Live + SD Current Week (w/o 6/21/21), Previous Week (w/o 6/14/21) and Year-Ago Week (w/o 6/22/20). Most Current: 2020 -2021 Season (9/21/20-6/27/21) and 2019-2020 Season (9/23/13-6/28/20). Live+7/Most Current – 2Q21: 3/29 – 6/27/21, – 2Q20: 3/30 – 6/28/20 and 1Q20: 12/28/20 – 3/28/20. 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.

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