The complex story of who won the evening news race in 2019

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

ABC World News Tonight” and “NBC Nightly News” both wrapped 2019 as ratings winners in a “depends on the way you look at it” way.

  • ABC’s evening newscast, anchored by David Muir, was tops in total viewers for the 2019 calendar year according to the official ratings issued by Nielsen.
  • “NBC Nightly News,” meanwhile, scraped out a narrow win in two key demos with anchor Lester Holt.
  • “Nightly” barely edged out “World News” in the 24-54 demo — gaining an edge of just 0.3%, according to a press release from NBC.
  • To give you better idea of what that means — that’s an average difference of just 5,000 viewers.
  • NBC fared a bit better in the adults 18-25 demo, beating ABC by 3%.

It’s worth noting that both ABC and NBC’s ratings data aren’t what they seem on the surface.

  • Both newscasts’ ratings include their “first run” across the country in each time zone and market.
  • However, ratings rules allow the networks to include overnight airings on their owned and operated stations as part of the total number — without making it immediately clear how many viewers that adds.
  • Granted, the early morning rebroadcasts likely don’t draw huge audiences, but eyeballs are still eyeballs.
  • Because these rebroadcasts air in some of the nation’s largest markets, the total viewership they attract can be significant when totaled together — especially in such a tight race.
  • ABC also has a slight edge, because it runs “World News Tonight” at 3:30 p.m. in addition to the both the evening and overnight broadcast in Los Angeles and San Fransisco — both of which are large markets (in other words, each edition airs three times in these cities as opposed to NBC’s two).
  • That 3:30 p.m. broadcast is notable because it’s not in the middle of the night. Granted, it’s also not exactly prime time, but it almost certainly helps boost the numbers as well.
  • Also, these numbers represent the calendar year of 2019. Networks frequently issue announcements touting “wins” in certain months, weeks or even days — as well as “seasons,” which typically spread over two calendar years.

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, “CBS Evening News” finished the year last — again.

  • It’s also last in most of the demo ratings while ABC and NBC posted gains over CBS.
  • “Evening” is the middle of a protracted relaunch. Norah O’Donnell took over July 15 and the broadcast moved to Washington, D.C. in early December.
  • Those changes haven’t made a big dent on ratings as of yet — in fact CBS’s numbers took a dip after O’Donnell took over from Jeff Glor over the summer.
  • Numbers improved a bit after the move to D.C., but O’Donnell certainly hasn’t been an immediate hit with viewers.

ABC is also giving NBC a run in the mornings — “Good Morning America” generally wins in total viewers, but “Today” performs better in the demo.

  • Likewise, “CBS This Morning,” which also underwent a major anchor shakeup this year, remains last.