With a football audience of more than 40 million viewers serving as its lead-in, CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” — whose stories included Charlie Rose’s interview with Sean Penn — surged to some of its best ratings in years Sunday. Also of note Sunday was a solid showing by the Democratic debate on NBC, which drew more than 10 million viewers.
Reliable time zone-adjusted ratings won’t be available for a day or two, but last night’s “60 Minutes” averaged roughly a 4.7 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 20.3 million viewers overall. These preliminary Nielsen averages are based on how the network’s affiliates performed in the 8 p.m. hour and don’t accurately reflect West Coast viewing, where the program aired at its regular 7 p.m. time, but they figure to be a decent approximation of the show’s performance.
It’s been at least five years since “60 Minutes,” which usually sees its highest numbers on nights when CBS has a national NFL lead-in, topped the 20-million viewer mark for an installment. The show’s previous highs this season came Nov. 15 (18.13 million), and its high in the last few years came in December 2012 (19.63 million).
Based on the prelims, last night’s “60 Minutes” appears to be the show’s most-watched episode since November 2008. That night, an interview with President Elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle drew 25.1 million.
The show’s top demo score in recent years (4.9) also came in December 2012 with an edition that was devoted to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that had occurred two days earlier.
Last night’s “60 Minutes” included Rose’s interview with Penn, who defended his own Rolling Stone interview with Mexican drug lord “El Chapo.” In the sit-down, the actor told Rose he assumed Mexican officials were aware of what he was doing and that the meeting was a risk to himself.
As for football, the second-round NFL playoff game between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh averaged a monster 26.2 household rating/44 share in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights — up 3% vs. the comparable Indianapolis-Denver game of last year (25.4/41, also from 4:45-8 p.m. ET) and making it the top-rated AFC second-round playoff game in 21 years (since Miami-San Diego in 1995 on NBC, 26.8/46.
The Broncos’ 23-16 victory over the Steelers now stands as the highest-rated NFL game of the season.
NBC scored big Saturday night with its wild and wacky NFC matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, which averaged a 20.3 household rating/34 share — the second best overnight ever for a primetime second-round NFL playoff in the overnights. And in total viewers, the Cardinals’ 26-20 overtime victory drew 33.7 million, up 9% from last year’s NFC game on the same night (Carolina-Seattle on Fox) and the largest audience ever for a second-round primetime NFL playoff game.
Last night’s Democratic debate on NBC averaged 10.16 million viewers from 9 to 11 p.m., making it the second highest-rated of four Democratic debates this election cycle. The first Dem debate, on CNN in October, remains the highest-rated to date with 15.79 million viewers.
Last night’s debate also attracted nearly 1.2 million viewers who streamed the event live on NBC News digital platforms including the NBC News YouTube channel, NBCNews.com, and apps for iPhone, Android, Amazon, Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku. And a quickie repeat at 11 p.m. ET on MSNBC averaged 552,000 viewers.
In the key news demo of adults 25-54, Sunday’s debate from Charleston, S.C., did a 2.7 rating, well ahead of the prior broadcast Democratic debates (1.8 on CBS in November, and 1.7 on ABC in December). The first CNN debate last October did a 4.2 in the demo.