An NBA playoff game on Saturday night helped push ABC past its rivals for a rare weekly victory in the key young-adults demo during a frame when two very different dramas — HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Fox’s “Empire” — were the clear leaders in same-day ratings.
“Game of Thrones,” holding up very well in its third week of the season, averaged a 3.7 rating in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, while drawing 7.28 million viewers overall. Even though HBO is in about one third the number of homes as the broadcasters, “Thrones” ranked No. 1 among all primetime programs for the week in the demo, matching the previous week’s score and up two tenths over the comparable episode of last year.
After seeing its April 24 premiere come in a little bit below last year’s opener, tune-in for the second and third episodes of “Game of Thrones” has exceeded those for the corresponding telecasts of last year. As a result, the three-week “live plus same-day” average tune-in for the regular-timeslot telecast of “Game of Thrones” stood at a series-record 7.504 million viewers — up 5% from last year (7.171 million) and a big 15% jump over two years ago (6.513 million). Through three weeks of its first season in 2011, it was drawing just 2.287 million.
And in the 18-49 demo, one that doesn’t mean all that much to HBO as a premium cable network but is a key measuring stick for the TV industry, “Game of Thrones” is now pacing ahead of last year (3.8 to 3.7) and also at a record-setting level.
HBO has yet to divulge any multi-platform or cume viewing numbers for the current season of “Game of Thrones,” but it’s likely that the show will stack up even better to previous years by this measure as more and more viewing is done outside of the traditional premiere-telecast window. The premiere, for example, broke records for HBO’s standalone streaming service HBO Now.
Elsewhere last week, Fox’s “Empire” (3.6 rating/12 share in adults 18-49, 9.39 million viewers overall) was down a tick from last week but remained the leader among all ad-supported programs for the frame in 18-49 as well as adults 18-34 (3.2 vs. a 3.1 for “Game of Thrones”). It will finish as the No. 1 broadcast entertainment series for the season in 18-49.
CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” fell to third in 18-49 as it had the misfortune of airing its penultimate episode of the season on Cinco De Mayo. With viewing among young adults down 10% week to week, TV’s top comedy hit a season low in 18-49 (3.0) but still out-rated the No. 2 Thursday program (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”) by 50%.
Elsewhere, CBS said goodbye to “The Good Wife” on Sunday (1.3/4 in 18-49, 10.62 million viewers overall), with the acclaimed legal drama rising 30% week to week in 18-49 and drawing its largest overall audience since November 2014.
ABC, which edged out CBS for the week’s lead in 18-49, was led by Wednesday’s “Modern Family” (2.2/8 in 18-49, 7.42 million viewers overall), though it matched a season low. The Alphabet’s Thursday lineup, led by “Grey’s Anatomy,” finished a tick behind leader CBS in 18-49 but ended up moving ahead of the Eye in Nielsen’s “live plus-3” ratings.
CBS, which led all networks in total viewers last week, claimed seven of the week’s top shows by this measure, including the top three: “NCIS” (14.86 million), “The Big Bang Theory” (13.22) and “NCIS: New Orleans” (12.56 million). With a little over two weeks to go in the season, CBS led the network race in total viewers, 25-54 and adults 18-49 (2.30 to 2.16 over runner-up NBC).
It was another week full of NBA Playoff games that took a bite out of viewing for entertainment programs. The top-rated primetime game for the week was Monday’s Oklahoma City-San Antonio contest on TNT (2.3 rating/7 share in adults 18-49, 5.20 million viewers overall), while ABC dominated lighter-watched Saturday with Game 3 of the Golden State-Portland series (2.0/8 in 18-49, 5.85 million viewers overall).
NBC had a big sports day on Saturday, starting with its early-evening coverage of horse racing’s Kentucky Derby, which averaged 15.5 million viewers. It was followed by the NHL playoff game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals (4.16 million), which became the second most-watched hockey game (excluding Stanley Cup Finals) in the last 23 years.
TNT dominated the week among cable networks in all key categories. Fox News Channel ran second to TNT in total viewers (2.24 million vs. 2.62 million), and moved up to No. 1 on a total-day basis (1.21 million).
WEEK’S TOP PRIMETIME PROGRAMS
(Live plus same-day for May 9-15, 2016)
Adults 18-49 rating
1. Game of Thrones* (HBO), 3.7
2. Empire (Fox), 3.6
3. The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 3.0
4. NBA Playoffs-Monday: Oklahoma City-San Antonio (TNT), 2.3
5. Modern Family (ABC), 2.2
6. The Voice-Monday (NBC), 2.1
6. Survivor (CBS), 2.1
8. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 2.0
8. NBA Playoffs-Saturday: Golden State-Portland (ABC), 2.0
8. NBA Playoffs-Sunday: San Antonio-Oklahoma City (TNT), 2.0
8. Fear the Walking Dead (AMC), 2.0
12. The Goldbergs (ABC), 1.93
13. NCIS (CBS), 1.88
14. Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 1.79
14. NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), 1.79
16. Criminal Minds (CBS), 1.78
17. The Middle (ABC), 1.73
18. The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 1.65
19. 2 Broke Girls (CBS), 1.59
19. Black-ish (ABC), 1.59
Total Viewers (in millions)
1. NCIS (CBS), 14.85
2. The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 13.22
3. NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), 12.56
4. Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 11.81
5. The Good Wife (CBS), 10.62
6. Blue Bloods (CBS), 10.10
7. Madam Secretary (CBS), 9.99
8. The Voice-Monday (NBC), 9.97
9. Survivor (CBS), 9.48
10. Empire (Fox), 9.39
11. 60 Minutes (CBS), 9.20
12. Criminal Minds (CBS), 8.84
13. The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 8.60
14. Hawaii Five-0 (CBS), 8.56
15. NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 8.10
16. The Odd Couple (CBS), 8.07
17. Mom (CBS), 7.92
18. Chicago Fire (NBC), 7.79
19. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 7.66
20. Chicago Med (NBC), 7.62
*not supported by advertising