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Weekly Ratings: NFL, Reality Show Finales Keep NBC on Top

Another monster “Sunday Night Football” result combined with the finales of summer hits “America’s Got Talent” and “American Ninja Warrior” to keep NBC on top of the primetime ratings leaderboard in key demos.

NBC’s much-anticipated Seattle-Green Bay matchup on “Sunday Night Football,” a rematch of last January’s NFC Championship game, averaged a 9.7 rating/29 share in adults 18-49 and 26.38 million viewers to lead all programs for the week, according to Nielsen “live plus same-day” estimates. This was the largest audience for a Week 2 NFL primetime game in 24 years (since Dallas-Washington on ABC’s “Monday Night Football” in 1991).

ESPN dominated Monday with its annual “Monday Night Football” doubleheader, which was led by the late game between the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers (5.9 rating in 18-49, 14.33 million viewers overall). Combined with the opener between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons 5.3 rating in 18-49, 13.56 million viewers overall), this year’s pair of contests out-rated last year’s by 8% in 18-49 (5.6 vs. 5.2) and by 11% in total viewers (13.95 million vs. 12.62 million).

CBS and NFL Network produced their largest-ever “Thursday Night Football” audience (21.117 million) for its Denver Broncos-Kansas City Chiefs thriller. It was up about 34,000 in total viewers from last year’s “TNF” opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers (20.777 million) while matching last year’s Week 1 rating in adults 18-49 (7.5), which is the franchise’s highest to date.

Overall for the Sept. 14-40 frame, the 52nd and final week of the 2014-15 television season, NBC cruised in adults 18-49 with a 2.5 rating/9 share, followed by Fox and CBS at 1.7/6 and Univision and ABC at 0.9/3. The Peacock also prevailed with ease in adults 25-54 (3.1 to 2.1 for CBS) and beat CBS in total viewers too (8.7 million vs. 6.7 million).

NBC, which had already clinched a No. 1 finish for the 52-week television season, extended its winning streak in adults 18-49 (either an outright winner or tied for the lead) to 11 straight weeks — the longest stretch for any network since Fox in the spring of 2009.

The Peacock had the week’s No. 1 entertainment program with Tuesday’s two-hour edition of “America’s Got Talent” (2.4/9 in 18-49, 11.40 million viewers overall), which led into the premiere of “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris” (1.8/7 in 18-49, 6.60 million viewers overall); the variety show didn’t wow in its bow, but it outperformed the network’s summer average behind “Talent” by 29% in 18-49 (1.8 vs. 1.4). “Talent” wrapped its season on Wednesday with a two-hour episode (2.1/7 in 18-49, 9.68 million viewers overall) that was clearly impacted by the GOP primary debate on CNN.

ABC kicked off its 21st season of “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday (2.1/7 in 18-49, 13.21 million viewers overall), down about 10% from last year’s bow and on par with last spring’s premiere. It tied in the demo with NBC’s season finale of “American Ninja Warrior” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 6.17 million viewers overall), with both these shows towering over Fox’s finale of “So You Think You Can Dance” (0.8/3 in 18-49, 2.49 million viewers overall).

For “Ninja Warrior,” these were its top finale scores to date. It rose week to week by 24% in 18-49 and was up vs. last year’s finale by 17% in the demo (2.1 vs. 1.8) and by nearly 1 million total viewers (6.2 million vs. 5.3 million).

Univision’s “Sabado Gigante,” the longest-running variety show in television history, ended its run Saturday as the night’s top-rated broadcast network in both adults 18-49 (1.1 rating) and adults 18-34 (1.0). These are the show’s top demo scores since its 50th anniversary special in 2012, and in total viewers its 3.4 million viewers ranks among the fifth largest audiences in program history.

Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate from Simi Valley, Calif., drew a huge 23.056 million viewers on CNN, an all-time best for the network, and more than seven times what its first primary debate in 2012 drew (3.12 million). The network’s previous high (16.8 million) came in 1993 when an edition of “Larry King Live” pitted Vice President Al Gore against Ross Perot in a heated discussion over NAFTA. Only its three-hour length probably kept the second GOP primary debate from catching or eclipsing the tune-in for the Aug. 6 primetime debate on Fox News Channel (23.997 million). The FNC debate drew more adults 25-54 (7.94 million vs. 7.10 million), though the CNN debate attracted more adults 18-34 (2.76 million vs. 2.56 million).

FX’s “The Bastard Executioner” opened to good but unspectacular ratings on Wednesday (0.83 rating in 18-49, 2.12 million viewers overall) and finishes as summer’s No. 2-rated scripted basic cable premiere, behind only AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead.” Compared to recent FX drama launches, the latest from “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter opened higher in the demo than “Fargo” (0.80), “Tyrant” (0.61) and “The Bridge” (0.5) but below “The Americans” (1.24) and “The Strain” (1.18).

BBC America’s “Doctor Who” kicked off its ninth season strong Saturday night (0.87 rating in 18-49, 1.97 million viewers overall), its top-rated premiere to date in the demo. Its premiere score also ranks among the 10 top returning cable drama series this year, ahead of the likes of “The Last Ship,” “Suits” and “The Strain.”

At Fox Business Network, Lou Dobbs ruled as the top draw in all of business news Monday, with “Lou Dobbs Tonight” bringing in 291,000 total viewers and moving ahead of CNBC’s “Shark Tank” for the first time. And one day later, FBN’s “Varney & Company” beat out MSNBC’s “NewsNation” head-to-head in the 25-54 demo (34,000 vs. 29,000) for the 11 a.m. hour.


(Week of Sept. 14-20, 2015; live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
NBC ………………..  2.5/9
Fox ………………..   1.7/6
CBS ………………..  1.7/6
ESPN ………………  1.5/4
UNI …………………  0.9/3
ABC ………………..  0.9.3
CNN ………………..  0.8/3
TEL …………………  0.6/2
TBS …………………  0.5/2
CW…………………..  0.3/1

Total Viewers (in millions)
NBC ………………….  8.68
CBS …………………..  6.65
Fox ……………………  5.28
ESPN…………………  4.32
ABC …………………..  4.25
CNN ………………….  3.75
UNI ……………………  2.51
FNC …………………..  1.62
Disney ………………..  1.57
USA …………………..  1.47

(Week of Sept. 14-20, 2015; live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
1.  Sunday Night Football: Seattle-Green Bay (NBC), 9.7/29
2.  Thursday Night Football: Denver-Kansas City (NBC), 7.5/27
3.  Monday Night Football: Minnesota-San Francisco (ESPN), 5.9/18
4.  Monday Night Football: Philadelphia-Atlanta (ESPN), 5.3/17
5.  GOP Primary Debate (CNN), 4.9/17
6.  67th Primetime Emmy Awards (Fox), 3.6/11
7.  Fear the Walking Dead (AMC), 3.3/10
8.  College football: Mississippi-Alabama (ESPN), 2.8/11
9.  America’s Got Talent-Tuesday (NBC), 2.4/9
10.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 2.1/7
10.  America’s Got Talent-Wednesday (NBC), 2.1/7
10.  American Ninja Warrior (NBC), 2.1/7
13.  Big Brother-Tuesday (CBS), 2.0/8
14.  Big Brother-Wednesday (CBS), 1.9/7
15.  Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (NBC), 1.8/7
15.  Big Brother-Sunday (CBS), 1.8/5

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  Sunday Night Football: Seattle-Green Bay (NBC), 26.38
2.  GOP Primary Debate (CNN), 23.06
3.  Thursday Night Football: Denver-Kansas City (NBC), 21.12
4.  Monday Night Football: Minnesota-San Francisco (ESPN), 14.33
5.  Monday Night Football: Philadelphia-Atlanta (ESPN), 13.56
6.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 13.21
7.  67th Primetime Emmy Awards (Fox), 11.87
8.  America’s Got Talent-Tuesday (NBC), 11.40
9.  America’s Got Talent-Wednesday (NBC), 9.69
10.  60 Minutes (CBS), 8.05
11.  Fear the Walking Dead (AMC), 6.62
12.  The Big Bang Theory-r (CBS), 6.61
13.  Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (NBC), 6.60
14.  Jeff Dunham: Unhinged (NBC), 6.52
15.  Big Brother-Tuesday (CBS), 6.44


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