TV Ratings: Democratic Debate, Football Games Win the Week

Live programming dominated TV ratings last week, with strong showings for football games and the Democratic debate edging out most scripted content.

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” led all of primetime with its much-anticipated matchup between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, which drew 22.8 million viewers. This was the largest audience in 19 years for an NFL contest that went up against baseball’s League Championship Series round. Two other NFL games cracked the top 10: CBS and NFL Network’s simulcast of “Thursday Night Football” drew 14.8 million, and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” matchup attracted 12.2 million.

And in baseball, TBS’ coverage of the first two games of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets averaged 7.2 million viewers over the weekend. This was up sharply from the 4.7 million who watched the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants on Fox a year ago.

The Democratic debate on Tuesday drew a huge 15.8 million viewers on CNN — easily the largest-ever for the party even it couldn’t match the nearly 24 million viewers who watched the first two Republican get-togethers. Debates at this time of the election cycle have typically drawn 5 million viewers or less, but interest in the 2016 election has spiked thanks to Donald Trump. And even though it was the Democratics this time around, they seemed to have benefited from the Trump halo effect as well.

“Empire’s” once-mighty reign is showing signs of decline: Viewership for Fox’s hip-hop dynasty drama was down for the third straight week, with 12.2 million tuning in to remain in the top 10.

The most popular rookie shows of the new season are proving to be “Blindspot,” “Limitless” and “Life in Pieces.” NBC’s “Blindspot,” which has been given a full-season order, leads the pack of newbies, having pulled in 8.4 million viewers last Monday night. “Limitless” on CBS is generating similar buzz, netting an audience of 8 million last Tuesday. CBS sitcom “Life in Pieces” is gaining similar traction, pulling in 7.8 million viewers Monday night.

ABC’s “Quantico” is also steadily becoming one of the top new shows, particularly in the coveted 18-49 demo. The drama, which follows young FBI recruits, pulled in 5.3 million viewers on Sunday night.

CBS led network programming, notching five of the top 10 programs and netting an average of 10.4 million viewers per evening. NBC followed with an average of 8.4 million, and ABC and Fox trailed with 6.1 million and 4.2 million averages, respectively.

For the week of Oct. 12-18, the top 10 programs, their networks and their viewerships: “Sunday Night Football – New England at Indianapolis,” NBC, 22.8 million; “NCIS,” CBS, 16 million; “Democratic Debate,” CNN, 15.8 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 15 million; “Thursday Night Football – Atlanta at New Orleans,” CBS, 14.8 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 13.8 million; “NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS, 12.5 million; “Empire,” Fox, 12.2 million; “Monday Night Football,” ESPN, 12.2 million; “The Voice,” NBC, 12 million.

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