Week of March 23 Evening News Ratings: Straightforward Coverage of COVID-19 Lifts the Evening Newscasts

By A.J. Katz 

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt weren’t the two-most-watched shows on TV this past week (as was the case the prior week), but their ratings were still pretty great.

The two newscasts split the evening news ratings race for the week of March 23.

According to weekly averages, NBC Nightly News was the No.3 -most-watched show for the week in all of TV in both total viewers and the key A25-54 demo. The program averaged averaged 10.9 million Total Viewers and 2.9 million Adults 25-54, which is +145,000 demo viewers (+5%) more than ABC, and +1,315,000 more A25-54 viewers  (+81%) than CBS Evening News.


As we’ll show below, Nightly News grew the most year-over-year, but shed the largest percentage of viewers from the previous week.

ABC World News Tonight averaged 11.92 million Total Viewers (No. 2 on all of TV) and 2.78 million Adults 25-54 last week. The ABC evening newscast has won all 27 weeks of the season and the last 70 weeks overall in Total Viewers.

In addition, World News Tonight delivered its second-most-watched week in over 18 years, and 2nd-best performance in Adults 25-54 in over 9 years. Only the previous week’s performance was stronger.

It’s worth noting World News Tonight weekly averages are based on just four days (Tues-Fri). The ABC newscast was preempted in multiple markets by the coronavirus task force briefing.

Despite finishing 3rd behind ABC and NBC, The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell performed well relative to other CBS programming. Every day last week, the newscast ranked in the top 5 among Total Viewers for all CBS shows. On Monday and Thursday, the CBS Evening News was the No. 1 show on the network.

However, compared with last week, when many states started instituting mandatory stay-at-home orders, and COVID-19 coverage kicked into high gear, evening newscasts were down. ABC was -5% in Total Viewers and -3% in the A25-54 demo. NBC was -9% in Total Viewers and -10% in the demo. CBS shed the smallest percentage of its audience from the prior week, -2% in Total Viewers and -2% in the demo.

Compared with the same week last year, the newscasts remained strong. ABC was +47% in Total Viewers and +70% in the demo vs. the week of March 25, 2019. NBC was +42% in Total Viewers and +81% in the demo. CBS was +24% in Total Viewers and +34% in the demo.

Numbers for the week of Mar. 23, 2020:

• Total Viewers: 11,922,000 10,892,000 7,420,000
• A25-54: 2,783,000 2,928,000 1,613,000




Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54  Live + SD Current Week (w/o 3/23/20), Previous Week (w/o 3/16/20) and Year-Ago Week (w/o 3/25/19). Most Current: 2019-2020 Season (9/23/19-3/29/20) and 2018-2019 Season (9/24/18-4/1/19). Most Current – 1Q20: 12/30/19 – 3/29/20, 1Q19: 12/31/18 – 3/31/19 and 4Q19: 9/23 – 12/29/19.  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 3/23/20 based on Total Day.