As the 2015-16 Season Wraps Up, CBS Declares Victory in Total Viewers and Adults 18-49

NBC, the demo winner for the past two years, slips to No. 2

The 2015-16 TV season ends tomorrow, and CBS—with a big assist from Super Bowl 50—has declared victory across the board.

The network will finish this season No. 1 in total viewers (10.9 million), adults 18-49 (2.3 rating) and adults 25-54 (3.1 rating). While the network routinely wins each season in total viewers—this is the eighth straight year it has done so—this is only CBS' second season win in the coveted 18-49 demo during the last decade (see below). NBC, which won the 18-49 crown the past two years, slipped to No. 2.

The network got a big assist from Super Bowl 50, which drew 111.9 million viewers in February, just as last year's Super Bowl helped NBC secure the top spot for the 2014-15 season.

Leslie Moonves, CBS Corp. chairman and CEO, preemptively declared victory last Wednesday during CBS' upfront.

CBS also claimed the top comedy in the 18-49 demo in The Big Bang Theory, with a 5.8 rating in the demo. The season's top drama in 18-49 was Fox's Empire, with a 6.6 rating. NCIS and The Big Bang Theory were the most watched broadcast dramas and comedies, respectively, with 20.5 million viewers each, though NBC's Sunday Night Football was most watched overall, with 22 million total viewers and a 7.8 rating in 18-49.

(All ratings reflect Nielsen's "most current" ratings, which is live-plus-7 for the entire season except for the last two weeks, which are live-plus-same-day.)

Those rankings include broadcast shows only; among all networks this season, AMC's The Walking Dead soundly tops all broadcast shows in the 18-49 demo, with a 9.6 rating in live-plus-7.

CBS' win came as ratings declined season-over-season at most of the broadcast networks. Its season average in total viewers dropped 3 percent, down from 11.2 million last year. NBC was down 6 percent, to 8.1 million. ABC plummeted 15 percent, to 6.8 million, while Fox stayed even, at 5.8 milion. The CW was down 5 percent, to 2 million.

In the 18-49 demo, CBS and Fox were even from last year, while NBC fell 12 percent and ABC was down 18 percent from last year. Fox's 1.9 average this year is less than half of its 18-49 season rating a decade ago: 4.0. That season, the lowest broadcast demo rating was NBC's 3.3, which is a full ratings point above CBS's winning number this year.

2015-16 September-to-May Season Averages
(average rating, share and audience through May 22)

Adults 18-49

CBS 2.3/8, 2.9 million
NBC 2.1/7, 2.7 million
Fox 1.9/6, 2.4 million
ABC 1.8/6, 2.3 million
CW 0.8/3, 1.0 million

(Each rating point equals 1.27 million viewers.)

Total Viewers

CBS 10.9 million
NBC 8.1 million
ABC 6.8 million
Fox 5.8 million
CW 2.0 million

The broadcast networks' 18-49 season rankings over the past decade:

CBS 2.3
NBC 2.1
Fox 1.9
ABC 1.8

NBC 2.4
CBS 2.3
ABC 2.2
Fox 1.9

NBC 2.7
Fox 2.5
CBS 2.4
ABC 2.1

CBS 2.9
Fox 2.5
NBC 2.4
ABC 2.2

Fox 3.2
CBS 3.0
NBC 2.5
ABC 2.4

Fox 3.5
CBS 2.9
ABC 2.5
NBC 2.3

Fox 3.7
CBS 3.2
ABC 2.7
NBC 2.7

Fox 3.6
CBS 3.1
ABC 2.9
NBC 2.8

Fox 4.2
ABC 3.0
CBS 3.0
NBC 2.8

Fox 4.0
CBS 3.7
ABC 3.5
NBC 3.1

Fox 4.1
ABC 4.0
CBS 3.8
NBC 3.3