And just imagine the numbers for next year’s series finale.
NBC’s “Friends” wrapped its strongest season in five years Thursday with Rachel Greene’s 12-months-in-the-making pregnancy giving birth to whopping ratings. Its one-hour averages of 34.91 million viewers and 17.0/44 in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, are the laffer’s biggest ever for a Thursday episode.
Only a post-Super Bowl episode in 1996 drew a larger aud than Thursday’s episode of “Friends,” which toppled its closest competitor, CBS’ “Survivor” (19.15m, 7.5/20 in 18-49), which actually held up pretty well.
Biggest weekend highlight, meanwhile, came on Friday when Fox’s “MASH” reunion spec won its two-hour block. Classic CBS series, which faded to black in 1983 — before Fox ever went on the air — delivered the best demo scores for any of this month’s series reunion specs.
As for “Friends,” its 18-49 rating is the biggest for any entertainment program this season, topping both CBS’ movie “9/11” (16.2/34) and the Academy Awards on ABC (16.1/39). It’s also the highest 18-49 rating for any scripted program on television since the May 2000 season finale of “ER.”
“Friends,” which enjoyed a ratings renaissance this season thanks to a string of clever soap-opera storylines and twists, ended with another: Rachel accepting an inadvertent marriage proposal from Joey.
It was a powerful night for NBC, which won every half-hour in adults 18-49. At 9, “Will & Grace” (12.0/28 in the demo) topped CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (9.7/23), although the crime drama still drew a larger overall aud (26.97m vs. 23.65m).
And at 10, “ER” (27.47m, 13.0/32 in A18-49) easily won its hour, but a special repeat “CSI” (18.26m, 6.7/17) certainly affected the medical meller. Compared with last season’s Thursday finales, “ER” was down 15% in the demo, even though “Will & Grace” was up 2% and “Friends” by 11%.
Through Thursday, NBC was cruising in the sweep with an average of 5.7/16 in adults 18-49 and 14.1 million viewers overall. CBS was second (4.0/11, 12.9m).
CBS makes out
CBS, the only other net anywhere in sight in the Peacock’s rearview mirror on Thursday, drew its largest overall audience on the night (21.6 million) since the night of the “Survivor: Africa” finale in January.
ABC and UPN tied for third in 18-49 on Thursday (2.1/5), well behind both NBC (14.0/35) and CBS (8.0/25).
On Friday, Nielsen prelims show the “MASH 30th Anniversary Reunion Special” winning from 8 to 10 p.m. in adults 18-49 (4.1/14), adults 25-54 (4.7/14) and total viewers (10.6 million).
The 18-49 rating — Fox’s best on a Friday in 15 months — is the highest generated by any of the sweep’s five series reunion specs (at least prior to last night’s “Cosby” reunion on NBC).
Fox topped second-place NBC by 3 shares, just the Peacock’s third demo loss in 34 Fridays this season. NBC still pulled ahead from 8-11 in total viewers (11.6m), thanks to a victory at 10 for “Law & Order: SVU” (prelim 14.3m).
CBS was third by most measures Friday with a “Price is Right” spec and the “Daytime Emmy Awards.” The two-hour kudocast appears to have dropped to a record low in overall aud (10 million), down from last year’s then-record low 10.3 million on NBC.
ABC was fourth on Friday but had a strong Saturday with a repeat of “Air Force One” (prelim8.5m, 3.1/10 in 18-49). Net appeared to have won by most measures, although it’s likely that NBC will move into first in demos when nationals are finalized for its 90-minute NBA overrun (Lakers-Kings).