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Network TV news – appointment viewing for many Americans – saw its audience increase somewhat across networks in 2020. Financially, advertiser expenditure for the news programs of the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) has been steady in recent years. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about network TV news below.
The average audiences for the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC grew across all three networks, according to Comscore TV Essentials® data. (Average audience is defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period.)
ABC evening news viewership grew 16% to 7.6 million viewers in 2020, following an 11% increase in 2019. CBS evening news viewership grew 7% to about 5 million viewers in 2020, while NBC viewership rose 8% to 6.5 million.
Average audiences for morning news programs from ABC, CBS and NBC remained mostly steady in 2020, with CBS seeing a slight (5%) decline in morning news viewership.
Average audiences for the network TV Sunday morning political talk shows on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – This Week, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press, respectively – benefited from the election season, each increasing by about 20% in 2020.
The average audience for the four newsmagazine shows aired by the networks – ABC’s 20/20, CBS’s 60 Minutes and 48 Hours, and NBC’s Dateline – increased for each network about 10% in 2020, following a stable year for CBS and NBC in 2019 and a 21% increase for ABC in 2019. (Since the average audience data from Comscore is not broken out by news programs, the CBS figures below represent the average audience for 48 Hours and 60 Minutes combined.)
Advertiser expenditures for the evening broadcast news programs ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News each rose in 2020, according to estimates from Kantar. ABC saw a 22% increase in 2020, while CBS and NBC each saw an 8% increase. (This data reflects Kantar’s estimates of the amount of money paid by advertisers, rather than the amount of revenue actually earned by networks.)
The three networks’ advertiser expenditures for the morning news programs each remained steady in 2020, though CBS and NBC saw increases in 2019 (12% and 7%, respectively).
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This fact sheet was compiled by Research Assistant Kirsten Worden and Research Analyst Mason Walker.
Read the methodology.
Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Find more in-depth explorations of network news by following the links below:
- Broad agreement in U.S. – even among partisans – on which news outlets are part of the ‘mainstream media’, May 7, 2021
- How Americans Navigated the News in 2020: A Tumultuous Year in Review, Feb. 22, 2021
- Many Americans are unsure whether sources of news do their own reporting, Dec. 8, 2020
- Americans Paid Close Attention as Election Returns Came In, Nov. 23, 2020
- Coronavirus-Driven Downturn Hits Newspapers Hard as TV News Thrives, Oct. 29, 2020
- Americans’ main sources for political news vary by party and age, April 1, 2020
- U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided, Jan. 24, 2020