Q4 2020 Evening News Ratings: ABC World News Tonight Dominates

By A.J. Katz 

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir was the No. 1 evening newscast for the final quarter of 2020, and its margin of victory wasn’t particularly close.

According to live plus same day data from Nielsen, ABC’s evening newscast averaged 9.4 million total viewers and 1.8 million adults 25-54 in Q4. This is the first time World News Tonight has won a 4th quarter across the board (total viewers and adults 25-54) since 1996. World News Tonight has been the most-watched evening newscast for 15 quarters running, and the No. 1 evening newscast among adults 25-54 for 3 quarters running.

World News Tonight also saw viewership growth relative to Q4 2019, a non-presidential election quarter, and growth relative to Q4 2016, the most recent presidential election quarter.

Compared to Q4 2019, WNT was +9% in total viewers, and +10% among adults 25-54. Compared to Q4 2016, the newscast was +10% in total viewers, but -1% among adults 25-54.

The ABC evening newscast had a great year in general. It was the most-watched show on TV for 13 consecutive weeks this year – from the week of June 1 through the week of August 24, to deliver the longest consecutive run of an ABC program to stand as the week’s most-watched TV show in nearly 26 years – since a 14-week streak by Home Improvement from week of Aug. 8, 1994 through Nov. 7, 1994.

World News Tonight undoubtedly is giving a big shout out to its ABC local newscasts (and especially those of the ABC O&Os) these days, many of which are beating up their NBC and CBS competitors and giving WNT a nice lift going into their evening contest against Nightly News and Evening News.

The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt averaged 7.9 million total viewers and 1.6 million from the key A25-54 demo during Q4 2020. The slim lead it held last year among adults 25-54 evaporated, as we predicted might be the case.

Nightly News was +1% in total viewers, but -4% in the key A25-54 demo from Q4 2019. The story wasn’t great relative to Q4 2016. Nightly News was -7% in total viewers, but -25% among adults 25-54.

However, NBC’s flagship newscast did manage to have its most-watched year since that 2016 election year, and was among the top 5 most-watched TV shows across TV this summer. It also out-performed its evening competition in terms of digital viewing.

The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell averaged 5.7 million total viewers and 1.06 million adults 25-54 in Q4. That’s up +3% in total viewers, and +1% among adults 25-54 from Q4 2019.

However, CBS, like NBC, lost a substantial audience relative to 4 years ago. Evening News was -19% in total viewers, and -34% in adults 25-54 vs. Q4 2016.

The 3 evening newscasts averaged a combined 23.1 million total viewers in Q4 2020, a +5% change from Q4 2019, but a -5% change from Q4 2016.

The averages for Q4, 2020:

• Total Viewers: 9,418,000 7,940,000 5,713,000
• A25-54: 1,832,000 1,601,000 1,057,000




Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54. Most Current: 2020 -2021 Season (9/21-12/27/19) and 2019-2020 Season (9/23-12/29/19). Most Current – 4Q20 (9/21 – 12/27/20), 4Q19 (9/23 – 12/29/19) and 3Q20 (6/29/19 – 9/20/20). Most Current – Calendar Year 2020 (12/30/19 – 12-27/20) and Calendar Year 2019 (12/31/18 – 12/29/19). 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. They reflect the addition of out of home (OOH) viewership that began being measured on Aug. 31 across 44 markets tracked by Nielsen Averages based on regular telecasts.