“The Big Bang Theory” edged the season finale of “The Walking Dead” to become only the second scripted series this season to top the weekly prime-time television ratings.
The CBS comedy averaged 14.24 million viewers and the AMC horror drama 14.19 million, according to live-plus-same day figures released by Nielsen.
Episodes of the CBS drama “NCIS” finished first for three weeks and the unscripted NBC comedy/variety series “Little Big Shots” was the most- watched program for the week of March 7-13.
Live events — sports, politics or entertainment — were the most- watched programs 23 times in the 28-week-old season.
In a week it aired reruns of its two most-popular dramas, “NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS had 10 of the week’s 18 most-watched programs to finish first in the network race for the 20th time this season, averaging 7.94 million viewers for its prime-time programming between March 28 and Sunday.
NBC was second, averaging 6.01 million, followed by ABC, which averaged 4.82 million, and Fox, which averaged 3.97 million.
The week’s only premiere on the four major broadcast networks, the CBS action comedy “Rush Hour,” averaged 5.07 million viewers to finish second in its Thursday 10-11 p.m. time slot behind the NBC crime drama “Shades of Blue” (5.425 million) and 38th for the week.
The second episode of the ABC crime drama “The Catch” was third in the time slot, averaging 5.067 million viewers, 13.3 percent less than the 5.846 million average for its premiere a week earlier. Nearly all programs draw smaller audiences for their second episode than their first.
The first original episode of the Fox hip-hop drama “Empire” since Dec. 2 was third for the week, averaging 12.46 million viewers.
ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” was fourth, averaging 11.95 million, and the Monday episode of the NBC singing competition “The Voice,” fifth, averaging 11.36 million viewers.
CBS was also first for the third consecutive week among viewers ages 18- 49, averaging 1.82 million viewers among the group targeted by ABC, Fox and NBC and advertisers pay a premium to reach.
NBC was second, averaging 1.57 million, followed by Fox, which averaged 1.56 million, and ABC, which averaged 1.31 million.
The AMC horror series “The Walking Dead” was the most-watched program among the group for the fifth consecutive week, averaging 8.78 million viewers.
“The Big Bang Theory” was second, averaging 4.49 million, followed by TBS’ coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament national semifinal game between North Carolina and Syracuse (4.13 million); the AMC talk show “Talking Dead” (3.89 million); and the Monday episode of “The Voice” (3.54 million).
ABC, CBS, and NBC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming for ratings purposes and Fox 15 hours.
Coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament enabled TBS to be the most-watched cable network for the second consecutive week, averaging 2.55 million viewers. AMC was second, averaging 1.96 million.
The most-watched Spanish-language program was the March 28 season premiere of the Telemundo telenovela “El Senor de los Cielo,” which averaged 2.79 million viewers, 82nd overall.
As usual, Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network, averaging 1.83 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 1.23 million, followed by UniMas, which averaged 780,000, Estrella TV, which averaged 240,000, MundoMax, which averaged 120,000, and Azteca America, which averaged 90,000.
The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the eighth consecutive week and 38th time in the 41 weeks since Holt was named as the anchor, averaging 8.59 million viewers. ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was second, averaging 8.23 million.
The “CBS Evening News” was third, as it has been throughout Scott Pelley’s more than four years as anchor, averaging 6.99 million.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory”; AMC’s “The Walking Dead”; Fox’s “Empire”; ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”; the Monday edition of NBC’s “The Voice”; the 8 p.m. Sunday broadcast of NBC’s “Little Big Shots”; CBS’ coverage of the Academy of Country Music Awards; the Tuesday edition of “The Voice”; CBS’ “Blue Bloods” and “NCIS.”
—Staff and wire reports