World News Tonight anchor David Muir
Cable news gets the buzz—and the loyal viewership of President Donald Trump—but the legacy evening newscasts piled up the ratings in May, delivering a combined total audience of 25.8 million viewers, according to ratings data compiled by Nielsen.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dominated news coverage for months, and certainly resulted in increased viewership for the three broadcast newscasts, led by ABC’s World News Tonight, which finished May with its largest across-the-board victory for a May sweeps period in 13 years. With an average audience of 9.7 million viewers, World News led its rival evening newscasts and saw its year-over-year ratings grow by 23 percent.
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NBC Nightly News ended May with a total audience of 8.9 million viewers, while the CBS VIAC Evening News was a distant third with 6.1 million viewers. CBS’ ratings delivery, while modest compared to ABC and NBC, would still be more than enough to make it one of the highest-rated programs if it aired on cable television, where the top-rated cable news show, Fox News Channel’s Hannity, led last week’s ratings with a total audience of 4.5 million viewers.
Viewership is up, but viewers still tend to be older. Among viewers 25-54, the demographic group most valued by advertisers, viewership for the evening newscasts was much lower, with ABC leading the three newscasts with an average audience in May of 2.0 million viewers. NBC followed with 1.9 million, and CBS was third with 1.1 million.
In the even younger demographic group of viewers 18-49, the numbers fall even further, with ABC winning with an average audience of 1.4 million, followed by NBC (1.3 million viewers) and CBS (790,000 viewers).
But these newscasts continue to show strength—and committed viewership. For the entire 2019-2020 season, ABC posted its most-watched season in 16 years.