Q4 ’21 Evening News Ratings: ABC World News Tonight Continues to Beat Competition

By A.J. Katz 

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir was the No. 1 evening newscast for the final quarter of 2021.

According to live plus same day data from Nielsen, ABC’s evening newscast averaged 8.2 million total viewers and 1.48 million adults 25-54 in Q4. The ABC evening newscast has averaged the largest total audience for the last 19 quarters—since Q2 2017.

Additionally, World News Tonight won the 4th quarter for the 2nd year in a row and led for the 7th straight quarter in all key target demos (since Q2 2020).


Those are the positives. However, on the downside, World News Tonight saw a decline in viewers from Q4 of 2020, a highly-rated quarter featuring a presidential election. WNT lost -13% in total viewers and -19% among adults 25-54 vs. that quarter. Compared to Q4 2017, the newscast was -8% in total viewers, and -19% among adults 25-54.

Unlike previous quarters, there were a number of Mondays in Q4 where World News Tonight did not air on the West Coast in the usual 6:30 p.m. PT slot. That was due to Monday Night Football on ABC. As one might imagine, this had a negative impact on the newscast’s Nielsen ratings for Q4.

Over on NBC, Nightly News with Lester Holt delivered its best quarterly total viewership versus ABC since Q4 ’19 and its best quarterly key A25-54 demo viewership versus ABC since Q3 ’20. The broadcast averaged 7.13 million total viewers and 1.27 million from the key A25-54 demo in Q4 ’21.

While Nightly remains a distant second in the evening news ratings race, it did gain some ground compared to its ABC rival and grew its average total audience from Q3 ’21 by nearly +8% (ABC grew +4% from Q3, while CBS grew +5% in average total viewers).

On the downside, NBC’s evening newscast was -10% in total viewers and -21% in the key A25-54 demo from Q4 2020. The story was worse relative to Q4 2017, as Nightly News was -16% in total viewers and -35% among adults 25-54.

However, NBC’s flagship newscast was among the top 5 most-watched TV shows across TV in Q4. It also out-performed its evening competition in terms of digital viewing.

The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell averaged 5.08 million total viewers and 881,000 adults 25-54 in Q4. That’s -11% in total viewers and -17% among adults 25-54 from Q4 2020.

CBS, like NBC, lost a substantial audience relative to four years ago. Evening News was -23% in total viewers and -36% in adults 25-54 vs. Q4 2017, a steeper decline than its counterparts.

The 3 evening newscasts averaged a combined 20.41 million total viewers in Q4 2021, a +5% change from Q3 ’21, -12% from Q4 ’20, and a -15% change from Q4 ’17.

The averages for Q4 2021:

• Total Viewers: 8,200,000 7,127,000 5,081,000
• A25-54: 1,482,000 1,269,000 881,000




Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54. Live + SD 4Q21: 9/20/21 – 12/26/21, 3Q21: 6/28 – 9/19/21 and 4Q20: 9/21 – 12/27/20. 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.