Sunday Night Football Is the Season’s Top-Rated TV Show, Again

NFL scores 5 of the top 20 spots, Empire is No. 2

In the last four TV seasons, three different networks have won the top spot among adults ages 18 to 49. But during the same period, just one broadcast program has ranked No. 1 in that demographic—NBC's Sunday Night Football, which grabbed the crown again for the 2014-15 season.  

Sunday Night Football topped all broadcast shows with a 7.6 rating. (All ratings data are from Nielsen and reflect the average adults 18-49 rating in live-plus-seven through May 10 and live-plus-same-day for the most recent two weeks.) Sunday Night Football's fourth straight win—before that, American Idol reigned for an astounding eight years—was one of five spots in the season's top 20 devoted to NFL programming.

One important note: this broadcast list doesn't include AMC's The Walking Dead, which ruled over all 2014-15 prime-time programs with a 10.4 live-plus-seven rating.

Among scripted series, Fox's freshman sensation Empire was tops, with a 7.1 rating—and, given how viewers increased each week, one wonders what the rating would have been if Season 1 had more than just 12 episodes. Empire even beat perennial juggernaut The Big Bang Theory, which tied for fourth place with a 5.5 rating while also grabbing seventh place for its occasional 8:30 p.m. repeats. The Voice secured two spots as well. Monday's show tied for 10th with a 4.0 rating, and Tuesday's broadcast tied for 14th, scoring a 3.7.

NBC, which won the season in adults 18-49 for the second year in row, had six programs in the top 20.

The top 20 broadcast shows of 2014-15 in adults 18-49:

1. NBC Sunday Night Football (NBC) 7.6
2. Empire (Fox) 7.1
3. Thursday Night Football (CBS) 5.9
4. Sunday Night Football NFL Pre-Kickoff (NBC)  5.5
5. The Big Bang Theory (CBS) 5.5
6. The OT (Fox) 4.7 
7. The Big Bang Theory 8:30 p.m. repeats (CBS) 4.6
8. Modern Family (ABC) 4.4
8. Scandal (ABC) 4.4
10. The Voice, Monday (NBC) 4.0
10. Football Night in America Part 3 (NBC) 4.0
12. How to Get Away With Murder (ABC) 3.8
12. The Blacklist (NBC) 3.8
14. The Voice, Tuesday (NBC) 3.7
14. Grey's Anatomy (ABC) 3.7
16. Criminal Minds (CBS) 3.6
17. Once Upon a Time (ABC) 3.3
18. Family Guy (Fox) 3.1
18. Scorpion (CBS) 3.1
18. Two and a Half Men (CBS) 3.1

Sunday Night Football was also the season's most-watched program in terms of total viewers with 21 million. The Big Bang Theory was second with 18.9 million, followed by NCIS (18.4 million), NCIS: New Orleans (17.5 million) and Empire (17.3 million).

At the other end of the spectrum, several shows on The CW occupied the bottom rung. The Messengers, one of the only CW series that won't be renewed, bottomed out with just a 0.3 rating. Out of the other four broadcasters, the lowest-rated shows included NBC's American Odyssey (0.7), and Fox's Weird Loners and Mulaney (0.8 for both). If only the word "football" appeared in their titles, perhaps those shows would have made it to another season.