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Weekly Ratings: Debate Lifts Fox News to 12-Year High; NBC Sacks Rivals With NFL’s Return

NBC found the ratings end zone last week thanks in part to the return of the NFL, but Fox News Channel’s coverage of the Republican Presidential Debate was easily the frame’s highest-rated program overall — and became cable’s most-watched non-sports telecast on record.

Moderated by Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, the first presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle drew a whopping 24 million viewers in primetime on Thursday. This was more double the most-watched debate on the network in the lead-up to the 2012 election (11.8 million) and is FNC’s most-watched telecast in its 19-year history.

The GOP primetime debate was also the week’s No. 1 program in adults 18-49 (5.3/17) and adults 25-54 (6.6/20), according to Nielsen’s live plus same-day estimates.

For the week of Aug. 3-9, Fox News led all cable networks in the adults 25-54 demo (1.19 million) and ranked third among all television networks for the week in average primetime audience (4.41 million) — behind only NBC and CBS and more than double the total for parent broadcast network Fox (2.07 million). This was the largest weekly audience for FNC since coverage of the Iraq War in 2003.

FNC also drew big numbers for other debate-related programming on Thursday, including 10.93 million for a special 11:07 p.m. ET post-debate edition of “The Kelly File”; 6.58 million for “The O’Reilly Factor” prior to the debate in most of the country; and 6.06 million for the 5 p.m. ET debate featuring another seven GOP hopefuls.

NBC’s winning week was punctuated by the NFL Hall of Fame Game on Sunday between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings (3.6/12 in 18-49, 10.98 million viewers overall). It was the week’s No. 2 program in demos and spiked in viewership by nearly 30% vs. last year’s game between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills to become the most-watched preseason game in five years.

But it wasn’t all about pigskin at the Peacock, which had another winning Monday via “American Ninja Warrior” (1.9/7 in 18-49, 6.52 million viewers overall) and “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 3.78 million viewers overall), while “America’s Got Talent” dominated Tuesday once again (2.2/8 in 18-49, 10.21 million viewers overall) and was the week’s most-watched series overall. “Last Comic Standing” matched its highest 18-49 rating since May 2014 (1.5/5) and “Food Fighters” matched its season high (0.9/3).

Also contributing was a solid-enough bow for Craig Robinson comedy “Mr. Robinson” on Wednesday. Its first of two episodes did a 1.2 rating in 18-49 (tops for any firstrun scripted primetime program for the week) and drew the largest overall audience (4.6 million) for a summer comedy premiere on any network since CBS’ “Creature Comforts” in 2007.

At CBS, “Big Brother” had its best week of the summer, with the three editions among the week’s top four series in 18-49. Thursday’s numbers were particularly impressive (2.1/7 in 18-49, 6.23 million viewers overall) given the enormous tune-in opposite it (in most of the country) for the GOP debate.

ABC saw “Bachelor in Paradise” on the rise in its second week (1.2/4 in 18-49, 3.76 million viewers overall), and the “Bachelor” spinoff went even higher on Monday of the current week (1.5/6 in 18-49, 5.09 million viewers overall). Not so hot was the network’s Thursday drama trio of “Astronaut Wives Club,” “Mistresses” and “Rookie Blue,” each of which delivered a season-low 0.6 demo rating on the night of the debate.

Fox had a very quiet week, with only “MasterChef” (1.5/6 in 18-49, 4.94 million viewers overall) exhibiting a pulse.

CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” kicked off its 22nd cycle Wednesday (0.4/2 in 18-49, 1.15 million viewers overall), in line with both its premiere and finale of last season. It was followed by the premiere of unscripted series “Wicked Offer” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.69 million viewers overall), which did the same demo score as comedy “Significant Mother” in its premiere on Monday (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.84 million viewers overall).

There were a couple of comedy series finales on cable, with BET’s “The Game” ending its nine-year run with season highs (0.74 rating in 18-49, 1.77 million viewers overall), standing as cable’s top original series Wednesday in all female demos; it surged in Live+3 to a 1.02 in the demo and 2.3 million total viewers. And over at ABC Family, “Melissa and Joey” also hit summer highs (0.41 in 18-49, 935,000 viewers overall in live plus same-day) as it concluded its run.

HBO’s “True Detective” ended its second season with a week-to-week surge (1.2 rating in 18-49, 2.73 million viewers overall) but still came in about 20% below last year’s series-high 3.5 million for its conclusion. Overall, same-night viewership of “Detective” in season 2 was higher than season 1 (2.60 million vs. 2.33 million), but when all HBO platforms are included, the drama was down a little vs. last year (11.3 million vs. 11.9 million), heading into the finale.

 

TOP PRIMETIME NETWORKS
(August 3-9, 2015; live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
NBC ……………………….  1.5/6
CBS ……………………….  1.0/4
ABC ………………………   0.8/3
FNC ………………………   0.7/3
UNI ……………………….   0.7/3
TEL ………………………..  0.6/2
Fox ………………………..  0.6/2
TBS ……………………….  0.5/2
USA ……………………….  0.5/2
Adult Swim ………………..  0.4/1

Total Viewers (in millions)
NBC ………………………..  5.57
CBS ………………………..  5.23
FNC ………………………..  4.41
ABC ………………………..  3.60
Fox …………………………  2.07
UNI …………………………  1.90
Disney ……………………..  1.71
TNT ……………………….   1.58
USA ……………………….   1.53
HGTV ……………………..   1.48

TOP PRIMETIME PROGRAMS
(July 20-26, 2015; live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
1.  Republican Debate (FNC), 5.3/17
2.  NFL Hall of Fame Game (NBC), 3.6/12
3.  Big Brother-Wednesday (CBS), 2.2/9
3.  America’s Got Talent (NBC), 2.2/8
3.  Big Brother-Sunday (CBS), 2.2/8
6.  Big Brother-Thursday (CBS), 2.1/7
7.  American Ninja Warrior (NBC), 1.9/7
8.  The Big Bang Theory-r (CBS), 1.5/6
8.  Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta (VH1), 1.5/6
8.  MasterChef (Fox), 1.5/6
8.  America’s Got Talent-Wednesday (NBC), 1.5/6
8.  Last Comic Standing (NBC), 1.5/5
13.  Bachelor in Paradise-Monday (ABC), 1.3/5
13.  Running Wild with Bear Grylls (NBC), 1.3/5
15.  Mom-r (CBS), 1.2/5
15.  WWE Raw (USA), 1.2/5
15.  Bachelor in Paradise-Sunday (ABC), 1.2/4
15.  CMA Music Festival (ABC), 1.2/4
15.  Mr. Robinson-9 p.m. (NBC), 1.2/4
15.  True Detective* (HBO), 1.2/4

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  Republican Debate (FNC), 23.99
2.  NFL Hall of Fame Game (NBC), 10.98
3.  America’s Got Talent (NBC), 10.21
4.  60 Minutes (CBS), 8.72
5.  The Big Bang Theory-r (CBS), 7.17
6.  NCIS-r (CBS), 7.09
7.  America’s Got Talent-Wednesday (NBC), 6.99
8.  Big Brother-Sunday (CBS), 6.62
9.  Big Brother-Wednesday (CBS), 6.58
9.  The O’Reilly Factor (FNC), 6.58
11.  American Ninja Warrior (NBC), 6.51
12.  Big Brother-Thursday (CBS), 6.23
13.  NCIS: Los Angeles-r (CBS), 6.02
14.  Zoo (CBS), 5.95
15.  Mom-r (CBS), 5.49
16.  Blue Bloods-r (CBS), 5.40
17.  CMA Music Festival (ABC), 5.23
18.  Dateline-Friday (NBC), 5.18
19.  NCIS: New Orleans-r (CBS), 5.05
20.  Dateline-Thursday (NBC), 5.03

TOP PRIMETIME SCRIPTED ORIGINALS IN 18-49 RATING
(Aug. 3-9, 2015; live plus same-day)
 1.  True Detective* (HBO), 1.21
2.  Mr. Robinson-9 p.m. (NBC), 1.17
3.  Mr. Robinson-9:30 p.m. (NBC), 1.02
4.  Zoo (CBS), 0.99
5.  The Haves and the Have Nots (OWN), 0.90
6.  Ballers* (HBO), 0.87
7.  Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family), 0.84
8.  Under the Dome (CBS), 0.83
9.  Extant (CBS), 0.78
10.  The Last Ship (TNT), 0.76

Source: Nielsen
*aired commercial-free

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