Ratings: Solid Return for NBC’s ‘Chicago Fire’; ‘Muppets,’ Others Lose Steam Vs. Debate

UPDATED WITH FINALS AND CABLE: NBC’s “Chicago Fire” kicked off its season a winner on a busy Tuesday that included a presidential primary debate, postseason baseball action and the “BET Hip Hop Awards” on cable. Ratings for the broadcast series were mostly down week to week, with ABC’s “The Muppets” continuing its fade after a good start last month and CBS’ “Limitless” down opposite tougher competition this week. Among the exceptions to the downturn was CW’s “The Flash,” which was up from last week’s premiere in its target demo.

CNN’s coverage of the first Democratic debate this cycle averaged a strong 3.6 rating in adults 18-49 and 15.79 million viewers overall from 9 to 10:51 p.m. ET, according to Nielsen, and about 15.3 million for the full duration of the event — making it the party’s most-watched debate ever. While over at TBS, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the New York Mets did a 2.0 rating in the demo and 6.35 million viewers overall.

BET was also a factor with its “BET Hip-Hop Awards,” which averaged a 0.93 rating in adults 18-49 and 1.81 million total viewers on the network, and a 1.17 and 2.31 million when including its simulcasts on MTV and MTV2. BET Networks has produced two of the three most-watched cable award shows of 2015 with the “BET Awards” (3.4 million) and last night’s show. The 2015 “BET Hip Hop Awards” was the No. 1 most social entertainment program on Tuesday, according to Nielsen Social, generating 5.5 million unique authors and 45 million impressions.

Looking at Nielsen’s national estimates for Tuesday broadcast series, NBC edged past CBS in 18-49 with its reconfigured lineup of “Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 4.48 million viewers overall), “The Voice” (2.6/8 in 18-49, 10.13 million viewers overall) and “Chicago Fire” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 7.37 million viewers overall). “Best Time” held up pretty well in its move, off just a tick from its 10 p.m. score of last week, while “The Voice” had a sluggish debut at 9 p.m., and its new timeslot may have caught viewers off guard.

At 10 p.m., “Chicago Fire” was down from the 2+ ratings it was doing at the start of last season when it aired behind “The Voice,” but the music competition was much higher-rated at that time. “Fire” won its hour in demos among the major networks, and its 1.8 rating in 18-49 matched its 2014-15 season average.

ABC’s “The Muppets” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 4.34 million viewers overall) was down 0.4 from last week and is now delivering less than half its premiere demo score (2.9). “Fresh Off the Boat” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 3.96 million viewers overall) was also down 0.4 but again built on its lead-in at 8:30. Both shows continue to be up by multiple tenths over the network’s low-rated half-hours in the time period a year ago.

“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” followed at 9 p.m. for ABC (1.4/4 in 18-49, 3.74 million viewers overall), down 0.2 from last week but up in men 18-34 (1.4) to its highest rating in nearly a year; it was last Tuesday’s biggest broadcast gainer in L+3. A repeat of “Shark Tank” capped the night (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.36 million viewers overall), with the net’s new drama “Wicked City” bowing in the 10 p.m. hour on Oct. 27.

CW’s “The Flash” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 3.49 million viewers overall) held steady in 18-49 and was up a tick in adults 18-34 (1.3/5), leading its 8 o’clock hour among the broadcasters. Last week’s second-season premiere of “The Flash” rose 50% in total viewers (3.58 million to 5.36 million), 63% in adults 18-34 (1.1 to 1.8) and 71% in men 18-34 (1.4 to 2.4) in Nielsen’s “live plus-3” estimates. It also gained more than a million additional views across CW’s digital platforms in its first three days of streaming.

At 9 p.m. for the CW, “iZombie” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.22 million viewers overall) was down 0.2 in 18-49 and even in 18-34 (0.5) from its premiere.

CBS “NCIS” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 16.04 million viewers overall) and “NCIS: New Orleans” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 12.47 million viewers overall) were down 0.1 and 0.2, respectively, week to week, and “Limitless” (1.4/5 in 18-49, 8.03 million viewers overall) was down 0.3 opposite its first real drama competition. In data released earlier this week for its premiere, “Limitless” grew by 1.3 ratings points in 18-49 (68%) to a 3.2 in Live+7 and to a 4.4 — more than double its 1.9 same-night rating — when unduplicated audience for an encore broadcast and 14 days of video-on-demand/online streaming are included. The show also grew 79% in total viewers to 17.64 million.

Fox’s comedies “Grandfathered” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.17 million viewers overall), “The Grinder” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 2.53 million viewers overall) and “Scream Queens” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.39 million viewers overall) were each down a little more. For the night, Fox tied with CW for fourth among the broadcasters in 18-49.

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