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Record NFL ratings pace NBC victory

Net tops demos in frame heavy on repeats, specials

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” wrapped its season with its largest ever audience last week — topping 30 million viewers for the first time — as the Peacock logged another victory in key demos.

And after last season becoming the first sports franchise to finish as the television season’s most popular primetime program, it’s in excellent position to do so again.

In a Christmas week that typically features the least amount of original series than any time of the calendar year, NBC was especially dominant last week with the NFL game between division rivals the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. The win-or-go-home contest to decide the NFC East crown averaged a huge 10.5 rating/28 share among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen.

The 30.28 million viewers overall was not only the largest audience for any NFL game this season — surpassing the 28.7 million who watched the same matchup on Thanksgiving on Fox — but it was the biggest for any regular-season primetime NFL game in 16 years.

The previous high on NBC, which started televising primetime NFL action in 2006, was the 27.62 million who tuned in on the final Sunday night of last season for the Cowboys and New York Giants in another game to determine the NFC East champion.

Through Sunday, “Sunday Night Football” was averaging 21 million viewers this television season — on par with last year and making it the No. 2 show, behind CBS’ “NCIS” (21.6 million).

Overall for the week of Dec. 24-30, NBC led in adults 18-49 with a 2.3 rating/7 share, well ahead of Fox (1.4/4), CBS and Univision (both 1.3/4) and ABC (1.1/3). The net has either shared for the lead or won outright in 12 of the season’s first 14 weeks.

The Peacock also dominated among adults 25-54 (2.8/7 vs. 1.8/5 for CBS) and led for a second straight week as well in total viewers (7.4 million).

Elsewhere, NBC won Christmas Eve among the broadcasters with a repeat of “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1.5/6, 5.62m) while ABC rolled on Christmas Night with NBA basketball leading into the half-hour “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1.8/5, 5.09m) followed by the theatrical of the same name (1.7/5, 4.65m).

A standout on Wednesday was CBS’ annual telecast of the “Kennedy Center Honors” (1.4/4, 8.18m), which won its timeslot and was up nicely year to year. It hit a two-year high in 18-49 and a three-year best in 25-54 (2.2/5).

And NBC looked good on Friday with a two-hour “Dateline” (1.7/5, 6.83m), which finished in the week’s top 10.

In cable, Christmas movies across several networks and a string of college football bowl games on ESPN dominated. The top-rated pic was TBS’ “A Christmas Story,” whose 8 p.m. telecast on Christmas Eve (part of an all-day marathon) ranked fifth among all primetime programs for the week in 18-49 (2.1/7, 4.89m).

The top football game was Saturday’s Alamo Bowl between Texas and Oregon State (1.4/5 in 18-49, 6,76m).

BBC America’s special “Doctor Who: The Snowmen” delivered a record adults 25-54 audience for the net on Christmas Day (807,000), and its overall aud (1.43 million) is the second biggest, behind the seventh-season preem of “Doctor Who” in September (1.56 million).

And on Sunday, Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” (1.6/4, 3.50m) was cable’s top entertainment series of the week in 18-49.

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