NBC Rules the Broadcast Roost, but CBS Has the Most Hit Shows

A breakdown of five weeks of ratings data

With five weeks of ratings data on the books, NBC remains entrenched as the No. 1 broadcast network, while CBS can lay claim to the lion’s share of the top 20 shows.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data for the period spanning Sept. 24-Oct. 27, NBC is lapping the field with an average prime-time rating of 2.8 in the 18-49 demo, up one-tenth of a point versus the year-ago period. Boosted by the World Series, runner-up Fox is flat with a 2.3 rating, while CBS is down two-tenths of a point with a 2.1.

Last-place ABC is down a tenth to a 2.0 rating.

As was the case a year ago, NBC’s dominance is being fueled by Sunday Night Football, The Voice and the drama that leads out of the latter on Monday nights. The prime-time NFL showcase is the most-watched, highest-rated program on TV, averaging 21.7 million total viewers and an 8.4 in the dollar demo. Season to date, Sunday Night Football is up 3 percent in overall deliveries and flat in the demo. (If not for a brutal Oct. 27 Packers-Vikings game that delivered just 16.9 million viewers in head-to-head competition with Game 5 of the World Series, the SNF ratings likely would be up slightly.)

CBS’ The Big Bang Theory is the No. 2 broadcast show, averaging 18.3 million viewers and a 5.4 in the 18-49 demo. (Of course, the top-rated scripted series can’t be found on broadcast; with a 7.4 in the demo, AMC’s The Walking Dead is an advertiser’s best friend.)

Tucking in behind Big Bang, The Voice is averaging 14 million viewers and a 4.5 in the demo, up 14 percent in overall deliveries and 2 percent among the 18-49 set. Lead-out The Blacklist is the No. 2 new series (11.3 million viewers/3.2 rating), trailing only ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (8.77 million/3.3).

The Blacklist is one of just two top 25 shows that airs in the 10 p.m. time slot. ABC’s Scandal is tied with the James Spader procedural in the demo, although The Blacklist outdelivers it by some 1.9 million total viewers.

At this juncture, every member of the Big Four has bragging rights to at least one new hit. Along with the aforementioned NBC and ABC series, CBS has struck gold with its Thursday night comedies The Millers (12 million/3.1) and The Crazy Ones (11 million/2.8), while Fox boasts the first renewed freshman series in Sleepy Hollow (8.44 million/3.0).

Also sneaking into the upper echelon is the ABC comedy Super Fun Night, which is 20th on the list with an average draw of 6.65 million viewers and a 2.5 rating.

All told, there are six new series in the top 20. Last year at this time, only one newbie had broken through—NBC’s Revolution which, like The Blacklist, enjoyed the cushy post-Voice time slot.

In terms of sheer volume, no one can lay a finger on CBS when it comes to the number of high-rated shows it broadcasts. All told, the network has nine series that chart, while runner-up ABC has five. NBC and Fox are tied with three, although if the World Series (14.1 million/4.0 rating through Game 5) were to count as a show rather than an “event,” it would rank No. 5.

All four networks have bid farewell to their 40s, as the median age of broadcast is now a wizened 53.5 years. That marks an increase of 2 percent, or one trip around the sun, versus last season’s 52.5 years.

CBS remains the grayest network with a median age of 58.3 years. Eight of its shows draw an audience with a median age of 60 years and up, and its Friday night cop drama, Blue Bloods, is the oldest-skewing series on the air (62.9). ABC’s Dancing With the Stars is right up there with Tom Selleck and the gang (62.1).

NBC is currently the youngest-skewing network (50.7) although that’s largely a function of Fox (51.1) aging up during the World Series. Through the first four games, the Fall Classic is reaching an audience with a median age of 54.6 years—significantly older than Fox’s full-season 2012-13 average (46.6).

The season-to-date broadcast top 20 is as follows. New series are in bold type. Note that live-plus-same-day ratings are used to determine season-to-date averages as they are statistically consistent with the C3 currency, i.e., the data against which the majority of ratings guarantees are made.

Rank                  Network                    Series                   Rating/Delivery

1                          NBC            Sunday Night Football      8.4 / 21.7 million

2                          CBS            The Big Bang Theory          5.4 / 18.3 million

3                          NBC            The Voice                         4.5 / 14 million

4                          ABC            Modern Family                 4.1 / 10.9 million

5                       ABC         Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.        3.3 / 8.77 million

6                          CBS            NCIS                                3.2 / 19.2 million

7                       NBC          The Blacklist                     3.2 / 11.3 million

8                          ABC            Scandal                            3.2 / 9.41 million

9                          CBS            How I Met Your Mother     3.2 / 8.08 million

10                     CBS          The Millers                        3.1 / 12 million

11                        ABC            Grey’s Anatomy               3.0 / 9.03 million

12                     Fox           Sleepy Hollow                  3.0 / 8.44 million

13                        Fox             The Simpsons                  3.0 / 6.40 million

14                     CBS           The Crazy Ones               2.8 / 11 million

15                        CBS            NCIS: Los Angeles           2.7 / 15.2 million

16                        CBS            Criminal Minds                2.7 / 11.2 million

17                        Fox             Family Guy                     2.6 / 5.66 million

18                        CBS            Survivor                         2.5 / 9.78 million

19                        CBS            2 Broke Girls                  2.5 / 7.84 million

20                      ABC         Super Fun Night            2.5 / 6.65 million