Week of May 31 Evening News Ratings: World News Tonight Marks 62 Weeks at No. 1, But NBC and CBS Gain Ground

By A.J. Katz 

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir finished the week of May 31 with a 7.31 million total viewer average, to go with a 1.31 million adults 25-54 average. That’s a larger audience than its NBC and CBS evening news counterparts both in total viewers and in the key A25-54 demo for the 62nd consecutive week.

WNT was also the second-most-watched program on U.S. TV last week (excluding sports and syndication).

Compared with the previous week (May 24)  World News Tonight shed a chunk of its audience, -5% in total viewers and -11% in the key A25-54 demo. Compared to the same week in 2020 (June 1), World News Tonight lost -23% in its average total audience, and more than one-third of its A25-54 audience (-34%).


As we’ve mentioned in recent ratings stories, year-over-year audience decline isn’t surprising. The news cycle has calmed quite a bit relative to last year, and that means less of a desire to watch the evening news. Additionally, each of the newscasts performed abnormally well during the year-ago week. Younger and less-consistent TV news viewers flocked to the evening news for coverage of the police brutality and racial injustice protests that were taking place in light of the recent murder of George Floyd.

Despite the ratings decline, both week-to-week and year-over-year, 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 6.33 million total viewers and 1.12 million adults 25-54 on linear this past week.

Nightly News was the fourth-most-watched show on TV last week (excluding sports and syndication), and posted its closest total viewer gap versus ABC in 27 weeks.

Compared to the prior week, NBC’s evening newscast shed -1% in total viewers, and -5% in adults 25-54. Relative to the same week in 2020, Nightly was down -24% in total viewers, and -38% in A25-54 viewers. Again, one should take George Floyd police murder coverage into account here.

NBC’s flagship newscast streams 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 661,000 viewers. That’s according to data from Adobe Analytics and Partner Portals, and the YouTube Analytics Portal.

While its competitors saw week-to-week losses, third-place CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell saw another week of audience growth. The newscast averaged 4.88 million total viewers, and 868,000 adults 25-54 for the week. That’s an improvement of +2% in total viewers, and +1% in adults 25-54 from the prior week. However, the newscast was down -15% in total viewers and -23% in adults 25-54 versus the year-ago week.

CBS Evening News was the most-watched show on the network Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, and also No. 1 in the demo on Tuesday.

It’s notable that NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight were rated based on a 4-day average (Tuesday-Friday) for Memorial Day. CBS Evening News was rated based on a 3-day average (Tuesday-Thursday). While CBS Evening News is the only one of the three to post week-to-week ratings gains, the network’s decision to retitle Evening News’ Friday broadcast (in addition to the Monday broadcast) may have saved the newscast from some ratings losses. After all, Friday is traditionally the lowest-rated day of the week.

Below, the Nielsen live-plus-same-day averages for the week of May 31, 2021:

• Total Viewers: 7,307,000 6,326,000 4,878,000
• A25-54: 1,310,000 1,124,000 868,000




Source: The Nielsen Company, NTI Total Viewers, Adults 25-54. Live + SD Current Week (w/o 5/31/21), Previous Week (w/o 5/24/21) and Year-Ago Week (w/o 6/1/20). Most Current: 2020 -2021 Season (9/21/20-6/6/21) and 2019-2020 Season (9/23/13-6/7/20).  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.