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‘Empire,’ ‘Sunday Night Football’ Top List of Highest-Rated TV Shows for 2015-16

With the 2015-16 television season ended, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and Fox’s “Empire” were once again broadcast’s top-rated series in the 18-49 demo. But unlike last season, when the freshman run of “Empire” was the most watched non-sports show, this season no new series cracked the top 10. Instead the highest rated new series, NBC’s “Blindspot” finished tied for 13th in the demo rankings after spending much of the season behind the most comfortable lead-in NBC could provide it, “The Voice.”

Though “Empire” was once again broadcast’s best entertainment show with a 6.4 rating in Nielsen most-current numbers (live-plus-seven for all but the last two weeks of the season ending May 25), it did see a 9.9% decline from last season. That wasn’t nearly as steep a drop as many of its competitors suffered.

ABC was particularly hard hit, with its top drama and top comedy from last season suffering identical declines, each down 20.9% from a 4.3 to a 3.4. “Scandal” fell behind fellow Thursday-night bookends “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” which experienced much milder drops. “Modern Family” remained ABC’s top comedy and second overall in the genre behind CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.”

In its ninth season, “The Big Bang Theory” was one of the only scripted series to grow its ratings, up 3.6% from the previous year to a 5.8. The only other scripted shows in the top 50 to not post any declines were CBS’ “NCIS” (up 6.9% to a 3.1), and NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” (even at 2.2) and “Chicago PD” (even at 2.1).

The steady performances of the latter two shows, along with fellow Dick Wolf-produced procedural drama “Chicago Fire” (down one tenth of a point at 2.5) and solid freshman “Chicago Med” (2.3), gives some indication as to why NBC has continued to invest in that franchise, with newcomer “Chicago Justice” slated for next season.

But aside from a few exceptions, scripted dramas struggled in 2015-16 to keep up with past performance. Among those that saw severe drop-offs were CBS’ “Criminal Minds” (down 19.4% at 2.9) and “Scorpion” (down 19.4% at 2.5); NBC’s “The Blacklist” (down 27% at 2.7); Fox’s “Gotham” (down 28.6% at 2.0); and ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” (down 25.9% at 2.0).

On the new-series front, only “Blindspot” was able to crack the top 20. Last season, three series — “Empire,” “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Scorpion” — did so.

In total viewers, “Sunday Night Football” continued to dominate with an average of 21.4 million. “The Big Bang Theory” led all entertainment shows with 20.4 million, edging out “NCIS” at 20.2 million. CBS’ “Thursday Night Football” (17.1 million) and “Empire” (15.7 million) rounded out the

View the top 50 broadcast series from 2015-16 below:

TOP 50 PROGRAMS 18-49
Program Net P18-49
2015-16
P18-49
2014-15
Change % Change Total Viewers
1. Sunday Night Football NBC 7.5 7.3 .2 2.7 21387
2. Empire FOX 6.4 7.1 -0.7 -9.9 15735
3. The Big Bang Theory CBS 5.8 5.6 0.2 3.6 20367
4. Thursday Night Football CBS 5.7 5.9 -0.2 -3.4 17124
5. X-Files FOX 4.8 N/A N/A N/A 13596
6. The OT FOX 4.4 4.6 -0.2 -4.3 12772
7. Football Night in America NBC 4.0 3.9 0.1 2.6 11645
8. Grey’s Anatomy ABC 3.6 3.7 -0.1 -2.7 11209
9. How to Get Away with Murder ABC 3.5 3.8 -0.3 -7.9 10261
10. Modern Family ABC 3.4 4.3 -0.9 -20.9 9833
10. Scandal ABC 3.4 4.3 -0.9 -20.9 10682
10. The Voice NBC 3.4 4.0 -0.6 -15.0 13332
13. Blindspot NBC 3.1 N/A N/A N/A 10782
13. NCIS CBS 3.1 2.9 0.2 6.9 20187
13. The Voice (Tue) NBC 3.1 3.7 -0.6 -16.2 12623
16. American Idol (wed) FOX 3.0 2.6 0.4 15.4 11645
16. The Bachelor ABC 3.0 3.0 0.0 0.0 9534
18. Criminal Minds CBS 2.9 3.6 -0.7 -19.4 12206
19. American Idol (Thur) FOX 2.8 3.9 -0.1 -3.4 11126
19. Survivor CBS 2.8 3.0 -0.2 -6.7 10993
21. Blacklist NBC 2.7 3.7 -1.0 -27.0 11199
21. Life in Pieces CBS 2.7 N/A N/A N/A 10533
23. Quantico ABC 2.6 N/A N/A N/A 8054
24. Chicago Fire NBC 2.5 2.6 -0.1 -3.8 10474
24. The Goldbergs ABC 2.5 2.8 -0.3 -10.7 7627
24. Scorpion CBS 2.5 3.1 -0.6 -19.4 12051
27. Black-ish ABC 2.4 2.9 -0.5 -17.2 7219
27. Lucifer FOX 2.4 N/A N/A N/A 7174
27. Supergirl CBS 2.4 N/A N/A N/A 9809
30. Little Big Shots NBC 2.3 N/A N/A N/A 12396
30. 2 Broke Girls CBS 2.3 2.6 -0.3 -11.5 8060
30. Shades of Blue NBC 2.3 N/A N/A N/A 9872
34. Limitless CBS 2.2 N/A N/A N/A 9817
34. Mom CBS 2.2 2.9 -0.7 -24.1 9646
34. Law & Order NBC 2.2 2.2 0.0 0.0 8306
34. The Middle ABC 2.2 2.4 -0.2 -8.3 8154
34. Heroes Reborn NBC 2.2 N/A N/A N/A 6395
34. Family Guy FOX 2.2 3.1 -0.9 -29.0 4282
34. NCIS: New Orleans CBS 2.2 2.7 -0.5 -18.5 14750
34. Once Upon a Time ABC 2.2 3.2 -1.0 -31.3 6324
42. Dancing with the Stars ABC 2.1 2.4 -0.3 -12.5 13443
42. Chicago PD NBC 2.1 2.1 0.0 0.0 8708
42. The Simpsons FOX 2.1 2.6 -0.5 -19.2 4747
42. Superstore NBC 2.1 N/A N/A N/A 6587
46. Code Black CBS 2.0 N/A N/A N/A 10179
46. Mike & Molly CBS 2.0 2.5 -0.5 -20.0 8461
46. The Bachelorette ABC 2.0 2.1 -0.1 -4.8 6629
46. Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ABC 2.0 2.7 -0.7 -25.9 5515
46. Gotham FOX 2.0 2.8 -0.8 -28.6 5370

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