Phil McGraw
Phil McGraw

No bull: CBS loves its new Dr. Phil-inspired series.

Bull,” the CBS drama inspired by the early career of psychologist Phil McGraw as a trial consultant, was the most-watched premiere during the opening week of the prime-time television season.

“Bull” averaged 15.566 million viewers, finishing fifth among prime- time programming between Sept. 19 and Sunday and third among non-NFL programming, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.

“Bull” benefited from following “NCIS,” the most-watched non-NFL program and third overall, averaging 15.995 million viewers.

CBS also had the most-watched new comedy, Kevin James’ “Kevin Can Wait,” which was second among premieres, eighth among non-NFL programs and 14th overall, averaging 11.08 million viewers.

CBS’ other premiere, “MacGyver,” averaged 10.725 million viewers to be Friday’s most-watched program and 16th for the week. It was CBS’ largest audience for a premiere in the Friday 8-9 p.m. time slot since “Ghost Whisperer” in Septmber 2005.

CBS drew the largest audience for any network during the opening week since 2011, thanks in part to having the four most-watched non-NFL programs and six of the top eight.

CBS averaged 11.18 million viewers to finish first in total viewership for the season’s opening week for the eighth consecutive year.

NBC was second, averaging 8.74 million, followed by ABC, which averaged 5.85 million. Fox averaged 3.64 million to finish fourth among the four major broadcast networks for the 24th consecutive week dating back to last season.

CBS was the lone major broadcast network to average more viewers than in the opening week of last season, with a 2.2 percent increase. NBC’s viewership was down 2.2 percent, ABC’s dropped 15.7 percent and Fox’s decreased 13.5 percent.

One factor in NBC’s declining viewership was a 6.8 percent decrease for “Sunday Night Football.” Sunday’s Chicago Bears-Dallas Cowboys telecast was first for the week, averaging 20.6 million viewers. The Denver Broncos-Detroit Lions game that aired during last season’s opening week averaged 22.1 million viewers.

Outside of its all-NFL Sunday programming, NBC’s viewership was up 0.7 percent from last year, rising from 6.999 million to 7.048 million.

CBS also benefited from NFL coverage. Its “Thursday Night Football” game between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots was second for the week, averaging 17.546 million viewers, and its 51-minute runover of its Sunday afternoon NFL coverage into prime time averaged 23.69 million viewers.

The runover is not considered a separate program, but is included in the weekly average.

NBC’s most-watched premiere was the drama “This Is Us,” which averaged 10.065 million viewers — 21st for the week and second in its Tuesday 10-11 p.m. time slot. The audience was NBC’s largest for a scripted program in the time slot since June 2009, when an episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” averaged 11.5 million.

NBC’s other premiere, the comedy “The Good Place,” averaged 8.036 million viewers for back-to-back episodes from 10-11 p.m. on Sept. 19, good for third in the time slot and 29th for the week. The back-to-back episodes were considered a single program.

“The Good Place’s” first episode in its regular 8:30 p.m. Thursday time slot was third in the slot and 45th for the week, averaging 5.25 million viewers, NBC’s largest audience in the time slot with regular programming since Sept. 24, 2015.

ABC’s most-watched premiere was the drama “Designated Survivor,” which won its Wednesday 10-11 p.m. time slot and was 22nd for the week, averaging 10.04 million viewers. That’s the most viewers for a scripted program in the time slot for ABC since the September 2011 premiere of “Revenge.”

The ABC comedy “Speechless” was third in its Wednesday 8:30-9 p.m. time slot and 32nd for the week, averaging 7.38 million viewers, ABC’s best showing in the time slot with scripted programming since a September 2015 episode of “The Goldbergs.”

ABC’s other premiere, “Notorious,” was third in its Thursday 9-10 p.m. time slot and 42nd for the week, averaging 5.394 million viewers. The premiere of the baseball drama “Pitch,” which ran opposite “Notorious” on Fox, was fourth in the time slot and 53rd for the week, averaging 4.227 million.

Fox got mixed results from premieres based on movies. “Lethal Weapon” was second in its Wednesday 8-9 p.m. time slot and 30th for the week, averaging 7.932 million viewers.  “The Exorcist” was fourth in its Friday 9-10 p.m. time slot and 80th for the week, averaging 2.854 million.

Ratings for premieres are often unrepresentative of how the series will fare due to the heavy promotion they receive and because viewers initially interested in the concept may not return for future episodes.

The live-plus-same day figures are treated with less importance by network executives when determining series’ futures than they had been in the past because the growing amount of delayed viewing has prompted advertisers to increase acceptance of figures that include delayed viewing.

The week’s most-watched cable program was ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, which averaged 12.137 million viewers, ninth for the week.

ESPN was the most-watched cable network for the third consecutive week, averaging 3.188 million viewers. Fox News Channel was second for the third consecutive week, averaging 2.333 million.

The week’s most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program for the second consecutive week was the Telemundo drama based on the life of the late singer Juan Gabriel. “Hasta Que Te Conoci” averaged 2.684 million viewers, 86th overall.

Telemundo was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the third consecutive week, averaging 1.68 million viewers. Perennial leader Univision was second, averaging 1.63 million, followed by UniMas (520,000), Estrella TV (220,000), Azteca America (110,000) and MundoMax (60,000).

The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt’s” 10-week winning streak as the most-watched network nightly newscast ended. ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” had 8.177 million viewers to NBC’s 8.010 million.

The “CBS Evening News” anchored by Scott Pelley was third, averaging 6.692 million viewers for its Monday through Wednesday and Friday newscasts.

(CBS did not include Thursday in its weekly average because of pre- emptions and schedule changes in some markets due to “Thursday Night Football.”)

The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”; CBS’ “Thursday Night Football,” “NCIS,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Bull”; the nine-minute ‘Sunday Night Football” kickoff show; CBS’ “60 Minutes”; the Tuesday episode of NBC’s “The Voice”; ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”; and the Monday episode of “The Voice.”

City News Service 

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