ABC’s Diane Sawyer Makes Ratings History in Winning May Sweep in Key News Demo

ABC, CBS and NBC all see overall gains for evening programs

World News With Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer made ratings history in May when her “World News” became the first evening news program solely hosted by a female to win a sweep month in the industry’s most coveted demo.

Even as NBC’s “Nightly News” opened up a bigger advantage in total viewers, it was ABC’s “World News” that finished on top in adults 25-54 for the May sweep — the network’s first May victory in seven years and its first in any sweep month in more than six years (both with Charles Gibson as anchor).

“World News” was up vs. last year for its best number in three years, while both “Nightly News” and CBS’ “Evening News” were on the decline and appear to have hit lows for a May sweep.

All three broadcast newscasts were up in total viewers vs. last year, combining for 22.571 million viewers nightly — up 6% from 21.356 million a year ago, according to Nielsen. But these gains were largely driven by viewers 55 and older, as the combined tune-in among adults 25-54 was up by less than 1% (5.549 million vs. 5.536 million).

Looking at the individual newscasts for the April 24-May 22 ratings period, ABC’s “World News With Diane Sawyer” averaged 2.014 million adults 25-54 — up 10% from last year. Sawyer, who took over hosting duties on “World News” in December 2009, has been picking up steam of late, winning five of the last seven weeks in the 25-54 demo.

“World News” surged ahead of NBC’s “Nightly News With Brian Williams” (1.972 million, down 7%), which had held a 15% advantage a year ago.The roughly 42,000-viewer advantage in the demo is the largest for ABC over NBC in any sweeps month since July 2007.

The Scott Pelley-hosted “CBS Evening News” remained third (1.563 million, down 1%) but mostly held its demo audience year-to-year.

In total viewers, “NBC Nightly News” retained its leadership position (8.430 million), drawing its largest May sweep audience in three years. It was followed by “ABC World News” (7.671 million) and “CBS Evening News” (6.470 million). There wasn’t much of a change here, with all three programs rising by either 5% or 6% vs. last year.

“CBS Evening News” drew its largest audience for a May sweep in eight years (since interim host Bob Schieffer). And for the just-concluded 2013-14 television season, its nightly average of 7.09 million is the largest for the program since the 2006-07 season (the first hosted by Katie Couric).


                 MAY SWEEP AVERAGES  (in millions)

                   Adults 25-54        Total viewers 2+
                  (vs. last year)         (vs. last year)

ABC              2.014 (+10%)           7.671 (+6%)

CBS              1.563 (-1%)             6.470 (+5%)

NBC              1.972  (-7%)            8.430 (+6%)

Source: Nielsen (“most current” for April 24-May 22, 2014)