“CBS Evening News,” anchored by Ms. O’Donnell, had 7.6 million viewers on average for last week’s newscasts, a rise of 21 percent. Among 25- to 54-year-olds, the numbers were even more striking: a 30 percent surge.
“We play it right down the middle every night,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “I think in this era when people are fearful and looking for trusted sources, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, let me tune in at 6:30 Eastern, because I know I’m going to get just the facts.’”
The networks have taken advantage of the renewed appetite by making their shows more readily available. NBC has moved a re-airing of its newscast to a 7:30 p.m. time slot in several major markets, which has added several hundred thousand additional viewers to its audience, according to Nielsen, and ABC has broadcast “World News Tonight” live at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The newscasts are pulling it off with a skeleton crew as much of their staff works from home.
Mr. Holt, of NBC, was at home during a phone interview for this article on Monday afternoon, his dog barking in the background, as part of the network’s plan to stagger the number of people at the program’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza office throughout the day.
NBC also fashioned a home studio in his Lower Manhattan apartment, just in case. And, indeed, a few hours after the interview, he anchored the show from home for the first time.
When reflecting on the robust public interest in the evening newscasts, the anchor mentioned a recent lunch his wife made for him: tomato soup and grilled cheese.
“Comfort food,” Mr. Holt said. “We’re all craving comfort. And whether it’s tomato soup and grilled cheese, or watching a broadcast that you remember growing up with as a kid that your parents watched, I think it’s all part of the same thing. What do I trust? What feels normal? What feels OK and comforting?”