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NBC Takes Total Viewers Crown in 52-Week Nielsen Season for First Time in 16 Years

NBC is poised to end the 52-week Nielsen season of 2017-2018 as the top broadcast network in every ratings measure, including total viewers.

According to Nielsen’s most current numbers–which include available Live+7 numbers up through week 50–NBC has overtaken CBS as America’s most-watched network for the year. The last time NBC could claim that was the 2001-2002 season.

The total viewers rankings are as follows: NBC, 7.8 million; CBS, 7.7 million; ABC, 5.6 million; Fox, 4.2 million; CW, 1.5 million.

“In a world where we’re constantly fighting fragmentation and the volume of choices that are available to the audience…it’s really an accomplishment to be the most-watched network in the country,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told Variety. “That’s kind of extraordinary. It hasn’t happened here in a long time. It’s really kind of difficult to get any kind of mass audience together these days.”

NBC will also once again finish as the top broadcaster in adults 18-49, averaging a 1.8 rating in that measure. ABC and CBS tied for second place with a 1.3 while Fox is at a 1.2 and The CW is at a 0.5. That currently puts NBC at a 38% advantage over its competition, the biggest such advantage in Nielsen’s people meter history.

In addition to claiming the 18-49 crown, NBC is the top network in every other major demographic. It’s the first time in 10 years a network has won the 52-week season in every key demographic and total viewers, a feat that was last accomplished by Fox in 2007-2008.

The Peacock got its biggest viewership boost from the 2018 Super Bowl, and also had the advantage of airing the PyeongChang Winter Olympics earlier this year as well. The network also aired highly-rated programs like “This Is Us,” “Sunday Night Football,” and “Ellen’s Game of Games.”

Yet at the end of the traditional September-May season, NBC was still trailing CBS in total viewers, with CBS once again winning in total viewers in that time frame. NBC was able to overtake CBS over the summer thanks to shows like “America’s Got Talent,” “World of Dance,” and “Making It.”

NBC’s late-night shows, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” were ahead of their competition in 18-49 in Live+Same Day. But CBS, in particular “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” currently enjoys a 1.2 million viewer lead per night on average and actually ties with NBC in 18-49 in delayed viewing. “Saturday Night Live,” meanwhile, averaged 9.4 million viewers an episode. That made this the show’s second-most-watched season in 23 years, behind only last year.

“There still is mass in broadcast television,” Greenblatt said. “There’s lots of different ways to measure viewing once you get to digital platforms and digital views, which aren’t the same as linear ratings. There’s lots of different metrics that you have to look at. To say that one service can accumulate this size of an audience is just a great thing for our business. Everybody says we’re a dying business, but the truth is our audiences are bigger than almost all audiences on all other platforms.”

But Greenblatt also acknowledged that the Super Bowl and Olympics helped create a “perfect storm” that lifted them above the other broadcasters.

“A lot of things came together and I can’t predict if that will happen again,” he said. “Every year is a set of new challenges and we look forward to them.”

2017-18 Primetime Averages thru 50 Weeks, Most Current

NBC…1.8

ABC…1.3

CBS…1.3

Fox…1.2

CW…0.5

Total Viewers

NBC…7.8 million

CBS…7.7 million

ABC…5.6 million

Fox…4.2 million

CW…1.5 million

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