The first two primetime NFL games of the season and continued strong performances by reality staples “America’s Got Talent” and “American Ninja Warrior” helped lift NBC to an easy primetime ratings victory in key demos last week, putting an exclamation point on the network’s second consecutive 52-week season victory.
One week away from the start of the 2015-16 campaign, NBC took a victory lap on Tuesday for the full 2014-15 television season, as it’s poised to finish on top in adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and adults 18-34 while placing second to CBS in total viewers, according to Nielsen “most current” ratings through Sunday (51 weeks). Specifically in the key 18-49 demo, its 2.1 rating will finish two tenths ahead of ABC and CBS (both 1.9) and four tenths ahead of Fox (1.7).
And even without the Super Bowl, NBC would have finished on top in 18-49 for the 52-week season, with its 2.0 rating holding off ABC and CBS (both at 1.9).
Though it lacked any new breakout scripted hits this past season, NBC was victorious thanks to NFL action (including the Super Bowl), “The Voice,” solid drama performers like “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD” and veteran “Law & Order: SVU” as well as newsmagazine “Dateline.” And this summer, “America’s Got Talent” and “American Ninja Warrior” led the way, while younger shows like “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” “I Can Do That” and “Hollywood Game Night” contributed with timeslot victories, and new comedy “The Carmichael Show” exhibited some promise.
The Peacock also continues to be dominant in late-night, where “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” have consistently won their timeslots. Fallon was the winner in young adults last week in his first head-to-head showdown with CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Under NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, the network has been a big proponent of live and event programming, scoring big during the 2014-15 season with specials including “SNL 40” and “Peter Pan Live.” Its slate of such programs during the 2015-16 season is even deeper, and will include new variety series “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris,” which bows tonight, live comedy “Undateable,” original movie “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors” and “The Wiz Live!”
NBC closed summer strong, finishing No. 1 in 18-49 (or tied for No. 1) during each of the last 10 weeks — matching the network’s longest weekly winning streak in 12 years.
For the week of Sept. 7-13, the Peacock crushed the competition courtesy of the NFL opener on Thursday between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots (10.3/34 in 18-49, 27.40 million viewers overall) and the premiere of “Sunday Night Football” between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys (10.1/31 in 18-49, 26.77 million viewers overall). The opening-week average NFL audience of 27.1 million is the largest in the 10-season run of “SNF” on NBC, pulling about 700,000 viewers ahead of 2011 (26.4 million).
NBC also won on Monday with “American Ninja Warrior” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 6.20 million viewers overall) and Tuesday and Wednesday with “America’s Got Talent” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 10.53 million on Tuesday and 1.8/7 in 18-49, 9.46 million on Wednesday). And overall, NBC had a string of six straight nights (Sept. 6-11) where it either won outright or tied for the 18-49 lead among the Big Four networks.
Elsewhere last week, NBC’s comedy “The Carmichael Show” dipped in its third and final week (1.0/4 and 0.9/3 in 18-49 for its half-hours), but it fared well enough during its run to garner a second season from the network. In the same Wednesday-at-9 hour, Fox’s alternative series “Home Free” ended its first season on a high (1.1/4 in 18-49, 3.83 million viewers overall).
It was a quiet exit, though, for CBS’ “Under the Dome” (0.8/3 in 18-49, 4.23 million viewers overall), which matched its series low in the demo. Opposite tough football competition, it was down 1 full point from its year-ago finale (1.8) and 2 points below its frosh season-ender in 2013 (2.8).
AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead,” back after a week off and airing opposite the monster Sunday NFL game on NBC, was down in its third week (3.6 in 18-49, 7.19 million viewers overall) but remained the week’s top-rated entertainment series in the demo. The show bowed with a 4.9 rating on Aug. 23 and then dropped to a 4.1 with its second episode on Aug. 30. This 17% decline in the demo was trimmed to 10% in “live plus-3,” though, and the show should pick up even more DVR playback viewing with its third episode.
ESPN’s college football game last Monday between national champion Ohio State and Virginia Tech was the week’s No. 3 program in 18-49 (behind the two NFL games on NBC), averaging a big 3.8 rating in 18-49 and 10.59 million viewers overall. And for the week, it averaged a 1.2 rating in 18-49 (tied with CBS for No. 2) and dominated among cable networks in total viewers (3.7 million).
Fox News finished second to ESPN among cablers for the week in total viewers (1.7 million) and has now been first or second for 10 straight weeks.