CBS Captures 18-49 Crown, Makes It a Clean Season Sweep

The Eye topples Fox in key demo, wins in total viewers by widest margin for any net since '89

Big Bang Theory CBS Ratings

You can put away the fogey jokes, because CBS has climbed to the top of Demo Mountain.

With as many of the top scripted series among adults 18-49 as its three rivals combined, the Eye has captured the season that ends tonight in primetime’s most important demo — its first such triumph in 21 years.

CBS remains the oldest-skewing of the Big Four but that hasn’t kept it from performing very well in key demos in recent years. Its first-place finish comes on the heels of six straight runner-up finishes behind “American Idol”-fueled Fox, and it has now won in the slightly older adults 25-54 demo in seven of the last nine seasons.

Its perf in these demos will again make CBS the leader in upfront advertising revenue this year.

The net also continues to make a mockery of the race in total viewers, finishing on top for the 10th time in the last 11 years and winning by the largest margin of any network in 24 years (4.1 million over runner-up ABC). And as an added bonus, its “NCIS” unseated NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” as primetime’s most-watched series during the television season.

The Big Bang Theory” exploded into TV’s No. 1 gun among the under-50 crowd, teaming with “Two and a Half Men” and dramas “Person of Interest” and “Elementary” to make CBS the top-rated network on the key night of Thursday.
CBS’ ascent has as much to do with its successes as it does the struggles of Fox, which tumbled 22% from last year as
“American Idol” fell by nearly 30%.

NBC had a solid season, as “The Voice” moved ahead of “Idol” as the No. 1 reality series in adults 18-49 and the net posted its most competitive finish in nine years — just a tenth of a ratings point behind second-place Fox after finishing a full half-point out of second a year ago. It also definitively finished ahead of ABC (after two seasons when they technically tied for third), marking the first time in nine seasons that it has done so.

Although each network could take away some positives, this overall was a rocky season for the Big Four, which are down a combined 10% year to year in adults 18-49 (10.0 rating vs. 11.1) and off 7% in total viewers (33.8 million vs. 36.4 million), according to preliminary Nielsen estimates for the Sept. 24, 2012-May 22, 2013 season.

Smaller broadcast networks Univision, Telemundo and CW fared better by comparison, as all three drew more viewers this season than last.

Univision scored an historic fourth-place adults 18-49 finish (ahead of NBC) in the February sweep, and finished strong with “Amores Verdaderos” (True Love). And Telemundo is the fastest-growing among all broadcasters for the season, posting its best-ever averages and beating CW head to head in both adults 18-49 and 18-34.

Overall, only two of the 13 half-hours to premiere during this season on the Big Four were renewed — and neither “The Mindy Project” nor “The Neighbors” can be considered a hit. There was also nary a new reality hit among the half dozen to launch this season, with NBC’s “Ready for Love” and CBS’ “The Job” getting the axe after just two airings.

Things were better on the drama side, where five shows — Fox’s “The Following,” CBS’ “Elementary,” ABC’s “Nashville” and NBC’s “Revolution” and “Chicago Fire” — did well enough to warrant second seasons.

Here’s a look at the networks:


The Eye aired the Super Bowl this season, but would have finished on top even without it. The previous time CBS won a season in 18-49 (1991-92) it needed enormous sports help, as it aired the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics.

CBS claims five of the season’s top 10 scripted broadcast programs in adults 18-49, including four of the top five comedies. “The Big Bang Theory” was the No. 1 entertainment series overall in both 18-49 and 25-54.

CBS was especially strong in the 8 p.m. hour across the week, with Monday’s “How I Met Your Mother” joining Tuesday’s “NCIS” and Thursday’s “Big Bang Theory” as top 10 shows. And while other nets have reality shows that rate higher, CBS continues to get great mileage out of veterans “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” as well as fourth-year “Undercover Boss.”

“Elementary” finishes as the most-watched new series, averaging 12.7 million viewers. And though it got somewhat overshadowed by ABC’s hot time period rival, “Scandal,” finishing a bit ahead of the sophomore skein in 18-49 for the season.

CBS also saw strong deliveries from its three annual in-season awards specials: The Grammys (28.37 million) drew its second largest audience in 20 years; the Academy of Country Music Awards (15.51 million) had its biggest in 15 years and bested the same season’s CMA Awards on ABC for the first time; and the People’s Choice Awards (9.72 million) was up across the board.


“The Following” rescued a flailing Fox in the second half of the season, finishing in a virtual tie with NBC’s “Revolution” as the No. 1 new drama in 18-49 — and finishing ahead of it as Monday’s top hour down the stretch.

Last season’s hot new show, “New Girl,” fell off in its second season, as did the net’s “The X Factor.” And though it continues to do OK, “Glee” was again down double-digits.

Fox certainly wasn’t helped by sports this season, as it didn’t air either the Super Bowl of a primetime NFL conference championship; also, the World Series lacked drama and wrapped in five games.


Excluding Olympics years, NBC became the first network in seven years to follow up a Super Bowl season with a drop of just a tenth of a ratings point the next season. “Sunday Night Football” had another great year, a second edition of “The Voice” also helped, while “Grimm,” “Parenthood” and “The Biggest Loser” all posted 18-49 gains  from last season.

These shows helped take some of the sting out of a disappointing second season of “Smash.”

Among new series, “Revolution” fared best overall but faded some down the stretch, while Wednesday’s “Chicago Fire” seemed to get hotter as the season progressed and is poised to have a strong soph season as it was awarded a post-“Voice” timeslot on Tuesday.

There wasn’t much good to come out of the net’s rookie comedy class, and the net in the fall will enter a season without top-rated comedy “The Office” for the first time in 10 years.

In a season that saw each of the Big Four nets post an older median age, NBC aged up the least (0.2 years to 49.5) and is closer to Fox (46.6) than it’s ever been. Contributing to the younger skew were dramas “Revolution,” “Hannibal” and “Grimm.”


The net finished third in adults 25-54 (tied with NBC and a tick behind second-place Fox) and second in total viewers.

The Alphabet’s biggest story of the season was the growth of sophomore drama “Scandal,” whose finale spiked by nearly 40% over last year and teamed with the still-potent “Grey’s Anatomy” to give the net its strongest two-hour block across the week.

Although “Dancing With the Stars” fell off rather sharply this season on Mondays, “The Bachelor” did well and was up vs. last year, and “Castle” continues to close the night well. And “Modern Family” may have fallen off some in its fourth season, but it was Wednesday’s No. 1 series in 18-49 and finished No. 2 among all scripted skeins.

Behind “Shark Tank,” “20/20” and leadoff hitter “Last Man Standing,” ABC was the No. 1 network on Friday in adults 18-49, rising 13% over last year for its strongest delivery in four seasons.

On the down side, ABC had numerous chances to pull closer to NBC in the second half of the season but reality shows “The Taste,” “Splash” and “Bet on Your Baby” joined dramas “Zero Hour” and “Red Widow” in posting meager ratings.


After several years of declining ratings, the net stopped the bleeding this season — holding steady in adults 18-49 and rising 8% in total viewers, according to averages that exclude the first week of the season when CW didn’t air any of its dramas.

The net did OK with its new dramas, getting good numbers out of “Arrow” on Wednesday and good-enough results out of “Beauty and the Beast,” which stabilized behind top-rated “The Vampire Diaries” as the season progressed.
They return in the fall along with another frosh, “The Carrie Diaries,” which underwhelmed in its first season but is getting more time to try and grow its audience.


For the week of May 13-19, ABC edged out Fox in adults 18-49 to become the first network other than Fox to win the week of the “American Idol” finale. It was ABC’s biggest non-Oscar week since late November.

The Alphabet was paced by “Modern Family” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 10.03m), the finales of Thursday dramas “Scandal” (3.2/9, 9.12m) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.1/9, 8.99m) and Sunday’s telecast of the “Billboard Music Awards” (3.5/10 in 18-49, 9.48m).

CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” was the week’s No. 1 show in 18-49 (4.8/17, 15.48m), and “NCIS” was the No. 1 drama (3.4/11, 18.79m) as it wrapped its 10th season.

It was a quiet finish, meanwhile, for Fox’s “American Idol” (3.6/11 in 18-49, 14.31m) as it shifted its season-ender to a new night (Thursday) and collapsed 44% from last year.

Notable among the week’s cable entertainment programs were HBO’s hot “Game of Thrones” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 5.13m) and cold-out-of-the-gate “Family Tree” (478,000 viewers for its premiere telecast).

At Discovery, “North America” drew 2.18 million viewers on Sunday, ruling as ad-supported cable’s No. 1 program for the night in adults 18-49 (1.0/3) and 25-54 (1.3/3) as well as key male demos.

Fox News, covering multiple scandals within the White House last week, ranked third among all cable networks in primetime with 2.04 million viewers — its second largest weekly tune-in of 2013 and more than four times the audience of MSNBC (487,000), which drew its smallest weekly audience since December 2007.


Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
1.  NBC Sunday Night Football (NBC), 7.9/20
2.  The Big Bang Theory* (CBS), 6.2/19
3.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 5.2/14
4.  Modern Family* (ABC), 4.9/13
5.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 4.7/14
6.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 4.6/13
7.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 4.3/13
8.  The Following (Fox), 4.3/11
9.  Two and a Half Men* (CBS), 4.1/12
10.  Grey’s Anatomy* (ABC), 4.1/11

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  NCIS* (CBS), 21.34
2.  NBC Sunday Night Football (NBC), 21.00
3.  The Big Bang Theory* (CBS), 18.68
4.  NCIS: Los Angeles* (CBS), 17.31
5.  Person of Interest* (CBS), 16.07
6.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 15.04
7.  Dancing With the Stars-Monday (ABC), 14.85
8.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 14.65
9.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 14.35
10.  Two and a Half Men* (CBS), 13.79

Final numbers (including all DVR-playback) won’t be available for a few weeks

*average includes repeat episodes


Adults 18-49
1.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 4.8/17
2.  The Voice- Monday (NBC), 3.8/11
3.  Modern Family (ABC), 3.7/10
4.  American Idol finale-Thursday (Fox), 3.6/11
5.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 3.5/10
5.  Billboard Music Awards (ABC), 3.5/10
7.  NCIS (CBS), 3.4/11
7.  How I Met Your Mother (CBS), 3.4/11
9.  The Big Bang Theory-8:30 (CBS), 3.3/10
10.  Scandal (ABC), 3.2/9
11.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 3.1/9
12.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 3.0/10
12.  2 Broke Girls (CBS), 3.0/8
12.  The Office (NBC), 3.0/8
15.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 2.6/7
15.  Family Guy (Fox), 2.6/7
15.  Game of Thrones (HBO), 2.6/7
18.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 2.5/7
18.  Family Guy-9:30 (Fox), 2.5/7
20.  The Big Bang Theory-Monday 8:30 (CBS), 2.4/7
20.  Mike & Molly (CBS), 2.4/6

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  NCIS (CBS), 18.79
2.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 15.48
3.  American Idol finale-Thursday (Fox), 14.31
4.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 13.52
5.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 13.33
6.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 12.11
7.  Dancing With the Stars-Tuesday (Fox), 11.87
8.  The Big Bang Theory-8:30 (CBS), 11.84
9.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 11.29
10.  Castle (ABC), 11.16
11.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 10.56
12.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 10.47
13.  60 Minutes (CBS), 10.19
14.  Modern Family (ABC), 10.03
15.  CSI (CBS), 9.53
16.  Billboard Music Awards (ABC), 9.48
17.  Scandal (ABC), 9.12
18.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 8.99
19.  Elementary (CBS), 8.98
20.  2 Broke Girls (CBS), 8.94

(in millions)

Total Viewers
CBS  7.92
ABC  7.54
Fox  5.80
NBC  5.49
UNI  3.44
TNT  3.36
USA  2.52
FNC  2.04
Disney  2.03
TEL  1.62

Adults 18-49
ABC  2.47 (2.0/6)
Fox  2.40 (1.9/6)
CBS  2.18 (1.7/5)
NBC  2.16 (1.7/5)
TNT  1.76
UNI  1.72
TEL  0.92
TBS  0.87
USA  0.87
ADSM  0.97

Adults 25-54
ABC  2.89 (2.4/7)
CBS  2.81 (2.4/6)
Fox  2.75 (2.3/6)
NBC  2.50 (2.1/6)
UNI  1.70
TNT  1.64
USA  0.93
TEL  0.87
TBS  0.81
FX  0.67


Total Viewers (in millions)
CBS  11.86 (+1% from last season)
ABC  7.85 (-6%)
Fox  7.06 (-20%)
NBC  6.96 (-6%)
4-Net average 33.73 (-7%)

CW  1.78 (+4%)
TEL  1.36 (+11%)
UNI  3.70 (+2%)

Adults 18-49 (Rating/share)
CBS  2.9/8 (-3%)
Fox  2.5/7 (-22%)
NBC  2.4/7 (-4%)
ABC  2.2/6 (-8%)
4-Net average  10.0/28 (-10%)

CW  0.7/2 (-13%)
TEL  0.6/2 (+20%)
UNI  1.5/4 (Even)

Adults 25-54
CBS  3.8/10 (-3%)
Fox  2.9/7 (-19%)
NBC  2.8/7 (-3%)
ABC  2.8/7 (-10%)
4-nets  12.3/31 (-9%)

CW  0.8/2 (Even)
TEL  0.6/2 (+20%)
UNI  1.5/4 (Even)

Adults 18-34
Fox  2.2/7 (-19%)
CBS  1.9/6 (Even)
NBC  1.9/6 (-5%)
ABC  1.7/6 (-8%)
4-nets  7.7/25 (-8%)

CW  0.7/2 (-13%)
TEL  0.6/2 (+20%)
UNI  1.3/4 (-19%)