ABC News’ World News Tonight, starring David Muir, surpassed ratings in the first quarter, but the period also showed viewers returning to earth for all of the nightly newscasts.
World News Tonight averaged 9.6 million viewers, a 2% decrease from 9.8 million in the first quarter last year. This was a period marked by the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and a presidential campaign. NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt hit 7.97 million, an 8% decrease from 8.7 million. The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell hit 6 million, down 7% from 6.26 million. The numbers are from Nielsen and published by ABC.
In the 25-54 demo, the World News Tonight average was 1.9 million compared to 2.02 million in the first quarter of 2020. NBC Nightly News was 1.56 million compared to 1.96 million last year, and CBS Evening News was averaged 1.13 million versus 1.22 million.
ABC News said this was the first time in 25 years that they beat the first quarter among total viewers and key demographics 25-54 and 18-49.
The decline was to be expected in many ways as the evening news broadcasts showed a resurgence at the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Given the extraordinary news cycles, the networks also sent additional news programs over the past year, which further increased the number of viewers at the time. In view of the changed viewing habits, attention was also increasingly drawn to the number of viewers on streaming platforms.
Comparing the most recent first quarter numbers with a less recent period – the first quarter of 2019 – World News Tonight increased total viewers by 3%, NBC Nightly News by 8% and CBS Evening News by 9%. In that quarter two years ago, World News Tonight averaged 9.32 million viewers, NBC Nightly News 8.68 million, and CBS Evening News, then anchored by Jeff Glor, 6.58 million.