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Weekly Ratings: ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Empire’ Separate From the Pack

Last week was a busy one in primetime for premieres and finales — including the return of NBC’s “The Voice” and the exit of ABC’s hit rookie “How to Get Away With Murder” — but AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Fox’s “Empire” were the clear standout performers.

The veteran zombie drama and first-year Fox soap, both of which wrap their seasons this month, continued their growth spurts last week and opened up some distance on the rest of the primetime field in the adults 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen estimates for the Feb. 22-March 1 frame.

“Dead” looked like it was finally losing some steam when it opened the second half of its fifth season last month with slightly depressed numbers opposite the Grammy Awards and “SNL Anniversary” special. But it bounced back a week ago opposite the Oscars and then jumped nearly another 10% on Sunday (to 7.5 in 18-49) — two full ratings points better than any other primetime program — while moving back above the 14-million mark in total viewers.

Through four weeks, “Walking Dead” is now ahead of last year’s pace by 2% in both 18-49 (7.16 vs. 7.01) and total viewers (13.94 million vs. 13.71 million), keeping alive the chance to extend its amazing streak of drawing higher ratings averages with every half season since its six-episode first season in 2010.

AMC’s discussion show “Talking Dead” continues to perform very well on Sunday behind “Walking Dead,” last week drawing more young adults (3.72 million, 2.9 rating/9 share in the demo) than all but five primetime series across the week (“Walking Dead,” “Empire,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Voice” and “Modern Family”). In its 10 p.m. hour, it outdrew the combined scores for the premieres of ABC’s “Secrets and Lies” and CBS’ “Battle Creek” (2.9 to 2.6).

Fox’s “Empire” hit a new high in both 18-49 (5.4/15) and total viewers (13.90 million), and has now grown for seven straight weeks in the latter. The demo rating, nearly a full ratings point higher than runner-up broadcast show “The Big Bang Theory” (4.5), is the highest for any regularly scheduled drama on the Big Four since “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2010.

Overall, last week’s network race was a very tight one, with ABC and Fox (1.7) slightly ahead of NBC and CBS (1.7 to 1.6).

CBS pulled ahead in adults 25-54 (2.3 to 2.1 for both ABC and NBC) while dominating in total viewers (9.17 million to 6.44 million for runner-up NBC). In the latter category, the Eye CBS claimed 13 of the week’s top 20 programs, including four rookie series (“NCIS: New Orleans,” “Madam Secretary,” “The Odd Couple” and “Scorpion”) in the top 11.

Looking at other highlights last week, Sunday saw a trio of premieres on the major networks, with Fox’s well-reviewed “Last Man on Earth” showing the most promise (2.4/6 in 18-49, 5.75 million viewers overall) and standing as the night’s top broadcast in 18-49.

Among comedy premieres this season, the Will Forte series ranks No. 4 in 18-49, No. 2 in adults 18-34 (1.9/6, behind “Black-ish”) and first in men 18-49 (2.9/8). In key male demos, it’s the net’s best start for a laffer since “New Girl” in the fall of 2011.

The two-hour premiere of ABC’s Ryan Phillippe-fronted miniseries “Secrets and Lies” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 6.06 million viewers overall) didn’t do great numbers, but beat its CBS and NBC competition in 18-49. ABC hadn’t done better with its “Resurrection”/”Revenge” combo in the 9-11 p.m. window since early October.

And over at CBS, the Josh Duhamel-Dean Winters odd-couple cop drama “Battle Creek” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 7.92 million viewers overall) got off to a sluggish start — though a season-low lead-in from “The Good Wife” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 9.09 million viewers overall) didn’t help. The 1.0 is the lowest rating for any drama premiere on the Big Four or CW this season.

CBS fared better with its other new series about mismatched men, as “The Odd Couple” (2.8/9 in 18-49, 11.08 million viewers overall) retained about 90% of its week-earlier premiere and again won its Thursday timeslot.

The Eye’s reality staples “Survivor” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 10.04 million viewers overall) and “The Amazing Race” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 6.10 million viewers overall) returned with back-to-back 90-minute premieres on Wednesday, with the former on par with its year-ago start in the demo (and up in total viewers), and the latter even with its February 2014 launch on a Sunday opposite the Winter Olympics.

ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” (2.8/9 in 18-49, 8.99 million viewers overall), airing without a “Scandal” lead-in for the first time, wrapped its first season with winning numbers Thursday. For the season, it figures to finish second among all new series in 18-49 (behind only “Empire”).

At NBC, “The Voice” had a solid return on Monday (4.1/12 in 18-49, 13.97 million viewers overall), down 13% in 18-49 from its year-ago bow (which had plentiful promotion during the Winter Olympics) but on par with its fall premiere and standing as Monday’s No. 1 program by a wide margin. It followed that up with an even more dominant Tuesday performance (3.9/12 in 18-49, 14.06 million viewers overall), even in the demo and up 5% overall vs. the same night a year ago.

The series finale of “Parks and Recreation” followed Tuesday’s “Voice” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 4.15 million viewers overall), bagging the show’s most-watched telecast since January 2012.

NBC’s “The Blacklist” edged up again Thursday (1.9/6 in 18-49, 8.01 million viewers overall) even though it’s getting little support from “The Slap” (0.7/2, 3.67 million) or “Allegiance” (0.8/2, 3.56 million) on either side of it. In the most recent DVR numbers (for its second Thursday episode on Feb. 12), “Blacklist” more than doubled its same-night rating in 18-49 (1.72 to 3.59), trimming what had been a 28% falloff from its Thursday premiere in Live+SD to just 10% in Live+7.

Aside from “Empire,” Fox was paced by Wednesday’s “American Idol” (2.7/9 in 18-49, 10.38 million viewers overall) and Monday’s “Gotham” (2.3/7 in 18-49, 6.53 million viewers overall). Despite the top score of 2015 for the Batman prequel, lead-out “Sleepy Hollow” wrapped its second season on a quiet note (1.4/4 in 18-49, 4.35 million viewers overall).

At Univision, 8 p.m. novela “Mi Corazon es Tuyo” (My Heart is Yours) had a good week, rising 11% in adults 18-49 (to 1.3/4) and 21% in adults 18-34 (to 1.3/5). In 18-34, the net ranked third in the hour (behind only Fox and ABC).

President Obama’s town hall event on immigration, conducted Wednesday by Jose Diaz-Balart, drew 1.72 million viewers on Telemundo and 907,000 viewers on MSNBC. Telemundo was the most-watched Spanish-language network during the event’s time period (7 p.m. ET) in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Phoenix.

Discovery had another big Friday with “Gold Rush” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 4.47 million viewers overall) and a “Gold Rush” special that followed at 10 p.m., “Freddy Dodge Returns” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 3.98 million viewers overall) — the top two cable shows of the night and strong enough to beat the 9-11 p.m. averages of both NBC and CBS. This comes on the heels of the network’s No. 1 February sweep finish for all of cable in men 18-49, led by “Gold Rush” and “Alaskan Bush People.” In adults 18-49 and 25-54, men 25-54 and total viewers, the network posted its best-ever February ratings.

CNN had reason to be pleased with the performance of its two new original series on Sunday, as both “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery” (1.14 million viewers, including 371,000 adults 25-54) and “The Wonder List with Bill Weir” (706,000, including 294,000 adults 25-54) finished ahead of Fox News and MSNBC in their timeslots. “Jesus,” in fact, more than tripled the demo audience of both FNC and MSNBC.

Fox News Channel finished in a virtual tie with “Walking Dead” network AMC as primetime’s most-watched cable network last week. “The O’Reilly Factor” had an especially strong frame, with its four regular episodes averaging 3.11 million viewers and nearly 600,000 adults 25-54 — up 11% in overall audience and a big 39% higher in the demo vs. the same week a year ago. “O’Reilly” appeared four times on the week’s list of 20 most-watched cable programs.

Science Channel, which was paced last week by Thursday’s “How’s It Made” (598,000), celebrated its highest-rated month ever in February. Led by “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” and “American Makers,” the network averaged 387,000 viewers in primetime for the month (live+3) — up 23% from the same month a year ago. It was also up 20% or more in all key demos.

Last Wednesday’s return of “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” set a ratings record for Fuse, with the show’s audience of 300,000 viewers in Live+3 the best ever for a season premiere on the music-dedicated network. “Big Freedia” was up 41% from its second-season premiere last June.

And outside of primetime, Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.” capped its first ratings sweep triumph over CNBC with a victory on Wednesday. The show, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, averaged 164,000 viewers (including 50,000 adults 25-54) to beat the 11 a.m.-1 p.m. combined average for CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” and “Fast Money Halftime Report” (144,000, including 24,000 adults 25-54).

 

PRIMETIME NETWORK RANKINGS
(Week of Feb. 22-March 1, 2015 — Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49
ABC                          1.7/5
Fox                           1.7/5
NBC                          1.6/5
CBS                          1.6/5
UNI                            1.2/4
AMC                          0.8/3
USA                           0.6/2
TBS                            0.6/2
TEL                            0.5/1
Discovery                    0.5/1

Total Viewers (in millions)
CBS                           9.17
NBC                           6.44
ABC                           6.08
Fox                            5.02
UNI                            3.08
AMC                          1.87
Fox News                   1.86
USA                           1.81
Disney                        1.66
Discovery                    1.60

TOP PRIMETIME PROGRAMS
(Week of Feb. 22-March 1, 2015 — Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
1.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 7.5/24
2.  Empire (Fox), 5.4/15
3.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 4.5/16
4.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 4.1/12
5.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 3.9/12
6.  Modern Family (ABC), 3.4/10
7.   Talking Dead (AMC), 2.9/9
8.  The Odd Couple (CBS), 2.8/9
8.  How to Get Away With Murder (ABC), 2.8/9
10.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 2.7/9
11.  The Bachelor (ABC), 2.6/7
12.  The Goldbergs (ABC), 2.5/8
13.  Survivor (CBS), 2.4/7
13.  Last Man on Earth (Fox), 2.4/6
15.  NCIS (CBS), 2.3/7
15.  Gotham (Fox), 2.3/7

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  NCIS (CBS), 17.38
2.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 16.67
3.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 14.43
4.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 14.06
5.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 13.97
6.  Empire (Fox), 13.90
7.  NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), 13.71
8.  60 Minutes (CBS), 13.55
9.  Madam Secretary (CBS), 11.64
10.  The Odd Couple (CBS), 11.08
11.  Scorpion (CBS), 10.69
12.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 10.38
13.  Survivor (CBS), 10.04
14.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 9.83
15.  Hawaii Five-0 (CBS), 9.79
16.  Person of Interest (CBS), 9.63
17.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 9.43
18.  Modern Family (ABC), 9.32
19.  The Good Wife (CBS), 9.09
20.  The Big Bang Theory, 9 p.m.-r (CBS), 9.04

 

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