NBC Tops in Demos, CBS Takes Total Viewers in First Week of TV Season

ABC has top premieres in 18-49, big return for 'Once Upon a Time'

NBC CBS Fall Ratings

In an overall pretty good first week of the television season for the broadcast biz, NBC ruled in all key demos and CBS prevailed in total viewers — while third-place ABC was arguably the most impressive of all the networks.

It was mostly slow going for Fox, though it book-ended its week nicely with newcomer “Gotham” and its “Simpsons”-“Family Guy” crossover episode.

The networks combined were down 2% in adults 18-49 rating vs. their premiere week of 2013 (9.6 vs. 9.8), according to Nielsen “live plus same-day” numbers, but they could erase that deficit in “live plus-3” results. CBS, which added “Thursday Night Football” to its early-fall schedule, was the only network up vs. last year in 18-49.

In total viewers, a category skewed by tune-in among adults 50 and older, the networks held up better. Their combined audience of 34.39 million was up 1% from last year’s 34.11 million, with ABC, CBS and NBC all up a bit.

Of course, it’s hard as always to assess each network’s performance based on Premiere Week, which includes special lineups on some nights, expanded premieres of some shows and variable numbers for sports action. (ABC, for example, had a good week with its entertainment series, but Saturday’s college football game was down a sharp 43% from last year, dragging down its overall average.)

And the same-week numbers only tell part of the story, as DVR playback continues to rise and account for bigger chunks of viewership — and year-over-year declines can be reduced or erased within three days of DVR playback.

In early “live plus 3” ratings through Thursday of premiere week, every returning show improved its standing relative to last year. CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” for example, went from a 2% decline to a 1% gain in Live+3, while NBC’s “Chicago Fire” erased its 4% decline to match its year-ago L+3 rating.

Some of the more noticeable adjustments in L+3 included NBC’s Monday episode of “The Voice,” which had been down 24% in same-night ratings (3.9 vs. 4.1) but reduced that dropoff to 17% (5.0 vs. 6.0); and also on Monday for the net, “The Blacklist” premiere went from an 11% decline (3.4 vs. 3.8) to a drop of just 4% (4.9 vs. 5.1). CBS’ “NCIS” was originally down 19% vs. last year (2.9 vs. 3.6), but within three days of DVR playback it had narrowed the deficit to 11% (3.9 vs. 4.4); and later that night, “Person of Interest” was off 26% in same-night rating (1.7 vs. 2.3) but trimmed that to 17% in L+3 (2.5 vs. 3.0).

For NBC, this was its third straight Premiere Week victory in 18-49, and its average (3.0) is the second best for the net in six years — behind only last year’s 3.1. Its margin of victory over the second-place network (CBS) was 0.6 ratings points, the second biggest advantage for any winner in the last 11 years (behind last year’s 0.8).

“Sunday Night Football,” “The Voice” and “The Blacklist” made the top 10 in 18-49, with the football game once again placing first in both same-night 18-49 rating (8.7) and total viewers (22.68 million). In addition to “Blacklist,” the net also saw good returns for “Chicago Fire,” which logged its second best rating ever, and “Chicago PD,” which returned up about 20% from its May first-season finale.

The Peacock has only launched one new show this fall, and “Mysteries of Laura” held up pretty well in its second airing (1.5/5 in 18-49, 10.01 million) and its first opposite regular competition. It led its 8 p.m. Wednesday hour in 18-49, and NBC went on to win the opening Wednesday of the season by this measure for the first time in 11 years.

At CBS, Monday was much stronger thanks to an hour of “The Big Bang Theory” (5.4 in 18-49, more than 18 million for a pair of episodes), the No. 1 entertainment series of the week; it gave the net its best showing in the opening half-hour of Monday with a regular program in 12 years (since “King of Queens”). It was followed by a good premiere by “Scorpion” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 13.83 million viewers overall), which went on to impress on Monday of the current week, retaining 97% of its premiere averages.

“NCIS: New Orleans” had a solid premiere Tuesday (2.5/7 in 18-49, 17.22 million viewers overall) behind “NCIS” (2.9/10 in 18-49, 18.23 million viewers overall), retaining 86% of its progenitor’s lead-in in 18-49, 88% in adults 25-54 and nearly 95% in total viewers. The net’s other new show, “Madam Secretary” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 12.72 million viewers overall), dropped off in its second week (it had a considerably softer “60 Minutes” lead-in), but it built on the newsmag by more than 25% in most categories.

Midweek, the premiere of “Survivor” (2.7/9 in 18-49, 9.75 million viewers overall) was up vs. last year, while “Thursday Night Football” (6.0/19 in 18-49, 16.29 million viewers overall, including the simulcast on NFL Network) gave the net its best Thursday of a premiere week since 2007. Among all programs, “TNF” ranked second for the week in 18-49.

Friday got off to a sluggish start with “The Amazing Race” on its new night (1.1/5 in 18-49, 5.48 million viewers overall), and the reality show may have been impacted by special “Shark Tank” competition on ABC. The softer open to the night seemed to affect “Hawaii Five-0” (1.2/5 in 18-49, 8.97 million viewers overall) and “Blue Bloods” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 10.38 million viewers overall), which didn’t do much in 18-49 though they were dominant in total viewers.

ABC did a good job getting viewers to the premieres of “How to Get Away With Murder” on Thursday (3.9/11 in 18-49, 12.16 million viewers overall) and “Black-ish” on Wednesday (3.3/10 in 18-49, 11.04 million viewers overall) — the fall’s top launches in 18-49.  The latter retained a strong 85% of its demo lead-in from “Modern Family” (3.9/12 in 18-49, 11.38 million viewers overall), and the former looked like a great fit out of “Scandal” (series-high 3.9/11 in 18-49, 12.16 million viewers overall), capping a powerful night for the network, which was led off by “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.1/11 in 18-49, 10.14 million viewers overall).

A quieter frosh success in Premiere Week for ABC was “Forever,” which did a 1.7/5 in 18-49 and 8.59 million viewers overall and then carried that audience over to Tuesday at 10 p.m. (a troubled timeslot of late for the net) with a 1.8/5 in the demo and 6.85 million viewers overall.

Among returning shows, the biggest standout was Sunday’s “Once Upon a Time” (3.7/11 in 18-49, 10.20 million viewers overall), which shot up about 40% in 18-49 from its year-ago premiere thanks to its “Frozen” storyline. It joined “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder” to give ABC the week’s top three dramas in 18-49.

On its new night, “The Goldbergs” (2.4/8 in 18-49, 7.31 million viewers overall) built on its “The Middle” lead-in Wednesday and outperformed last year’s “Back in the Game” premiere in the same  8:30 p.m. slot (2.2). Also, “Shark Tank” (1.9/8 in 18-49, 7.45 million viewers overall) and “20/20” (1.6/6 in 18-49, 6.57 million viewers overall) were Friday’s top shows in 18-49 and 25-54.

Overall, ABC had six of the week’s top 15 non-sports telecasts in adults 18-49 — more than any other net.

Fox got the week off to a hot start with the series premiere of “Gotham” (3.2/10 in 18-49, 8.21 million viewers overall), which ended up emerging the No. 1 drama of the night in Live+3 18-49 ratings — rising 1.8 ratings points to edge ahead of “The Blacklist” and “Scorpion.” And the frame was capped by the “Simpsons Guy” crossover episode of “The Family Guy” (4.5/12 in 18-49, 8.45 million viewers overall), which logged its best premiere score in four years and stood as last week’s No. 2 entertainment series in 18-49, behind only “The Big Bang Theory.”

The net is struggling in too many other timeslots, though, including its Tuesday comedies “New Girl” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.35 million viewers overall) and “The Mindy Project” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.10 million viewers overall) and new reality show “Utopia” (0.8/3 in 18-49 on Tuesday and 0.7/3 on Friday).

In its second week, “Red Band Society” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.43 million viewers overall) fell off two tenths in 18-49, but it made it up in early DVR playback. Its Live+3 rating (1.4) was the same as for the previous week’s premiere.

CW doesn’t launch its season until Thursday, when “The Vampire Diaries” and “Reign” return. Its first new series to bow, “Flash,” comes aboard next Tuesday.



Adults 18-49    
NBC                    3.0 rating/10 share
CBS                    2.4/8
ABC                    2.2/7
Fox                     2.0/6

Adults 25-54
NBC                   3.6/10
CBS                    3.2/9
ABC                    2.7/7
Fox                     2.2/6

Total Viewers
CBS                   10.86 million
NBC                   10.03 million
ABC                    8.26 million
Fox                     5.24 million


(Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49
1.  Sunday Night Football: New Orleans-Dallas (NBC), 8.7/25
2.  Thursday Night Football: N.Y. Giants-Washington (CBS/NFLN), 6.0/19
3.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 5.4/17
3.  The Big Bang Theory-8:30 (CBS), 5.4/16
5.  Monday Night Football: Chicago-N.Y. Jets (ESPN), 5.2/14
6.  Family Guy (Fox), 4.5/12
7.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 4.1/13
8.  How to Get Away With Murder (ABC), 3.9/12
8.  Modern Family (ABC), 3.9/12
8.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 3.9/11
8.  Scandal (ABC), 3.9/11
8.  The Simpsons (Fox), 3.9/11
13.  Once Upon a Time (ABC), 3.7/11
14.  The Blacklist (NBC), 3.4/10
15.  Black-ish (ABC), 3.3/10
16.  Gotham (Fox), 3.2/10
16.  Scorpion (CBS), 3.2/9
18.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 3.1/11
19.  NCIS (CBS), 2.9/10
20.  Survivor (CBS), 2.7/9

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  Sunday Night Football: New Orleans-Dallas (NBC), 22.68
2.  The Big Bang Theory-8:30 (CBS), 18.24
3.  NCIS (CBS), 18.23
4.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 18.03
5.  NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), 17.23
6.  Thursday Night Football: N.Y. Giants-Washington (CBS/NFLN), 16.29
7.  How to Get Away With Murder (ABC), 14.34
8.  Scorpion (CBS), 13.83
9.  Monday Night Football: Chicago-N.Y. Jets (ESPN), 13.27
10.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 13.18
11.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 12.95
12.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 12.76
13.  Madam Secretary (CBS), 12.72
14.  The Blacklist (NBC), 12.34
15.  Scandal (ABC), 12.16
16.  Modern Family (ABC), 11.38
17.  The Good Wife (CBS), 11.09
18.  Black-ish (ABC), 11.04
19.  Blue Bloods (CBS), 10.88
20.  Person of Interest (CBS), 10.58