Even lower viewership caused by a presidential debate airing at the same time couldn’t dislodge NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” from its customary spot atop the prime-time television ratings.
The Green Bay Packers 23-16 victory over the New York Giants averaged 16.62 million viewers to be the most-watched prime-time program between Oct. 3 and Sunday, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen.
“Sunday Night Football” has been the most-watched program three times during the three-week-old 2016-17 television season and for four consecutive weeks.
The debate averaged 66.5 million viewers, but was not eligible to be considered the week’s most-watched program because the major broadcast networks did not include commercials during their coverage.
In a week with programming preemptions for two nights because of presidential and vice presidential debates, CBS combined the three most-watched non-NFL programs with the most-watched debate analysis to be the most-watched network for the third time in the season, averaging 9.58 million viewers.
NBC was second, averaging 7.3 million viewers, followed by ABC, which averaged 6.1 million.
Fox averaged 3.44 million viewers to finish fourth among the four major broadcast networks for the 26th consecutive week dating back to last season. Fox was fifth overall, trailing cable’s ESPN, which averaged 3.789 million.
CBS’ “NCIS” was the most-watched non-NFL program for the third time this season, averaging 14.441 million viewers to finish third overall behind “Sunday Night Football” and the nine-minute “Sunday Night Football” kickoff show that averaged 14.813 million.
CBS received two boosts from football. Its “Thursday Night Football” game between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers seventh for the week, averaging 12.073 million viewers.
The 45-minute runover of CBS’ Sunday afternoon coverage into primetime averaged 21.83 million viewers. The runover is not considered a separate program, but is included in the weekly average.
With CBS’ “Bull” preempted for coverage of the vice presidential debate, the CBS comedy “Kevin Can Wait” was the week’s most-watched new series, averaging 9.516 million viewers, finishing 16th overall.
CBS 29-minute post-presidential debate analysis topped all its competition, averaging 10.941 million viewers, with Fox News Channel finishing second, averaging 8.593 million for its 23-minute analysis program.
The NBC time-traveling drama “Timeless” was the most-watched of the week’s two premieres on the major broadcast networks, averaging 7.597 million viewers, finishing third in its 10-11 p.m. time slot Oct. 3 and 26th for the week.
The audience for “Timeless” was NBC’s largest in the time slot with regular programming since the Nov. 16, 2015 episode of “Blindspot.”
The premiere of the ABC legal drama “Conviction,” which ran opposite “Timeless,” averaged 5.174 million viewers to finish fourth in the time slot and 51st overall.
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’ fates 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.
NBC aired 19 hours, 54 minutes of programming for ratings purposes, CBS and ABC both aired 18 hours, 47 minutes and Fox 14 hours, four minutes.
ESPN returned to the top of the cable television ratings after a one- week absence, averaging 3.789 million viewers.
ESPN had the week’s most-watched cable program — the “Monday Night Football” game between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, which averaged 13.167 million viewers, fifth overall.
ESPN was aided by an addition to its usual fall fare of professional and college football, baseball’s National League wild card game between the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants, which averaged 7.42 million viewers, fifth among cable programs and 29th overall.
Fox News Channel was the second most-watched cable network, averaging 3.466 million. Like CNN and MSNBC, ratings for Fox News Channel’s weekly average included the presidential and vice presidential debates because they ran with commercials.
The week’s most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program for the fourth consecutive week was the Telemundo drama based on the life of the late singer Juan Gabriel. “Hasta Que Te Conoci” which averaged 2.665 million viewers, 99th overall.
Telemundo regained the top spot among Spanish-language networks after a one-week absence, averaging 1.82 million, to 1.75 million for perennial leader Univision.
UniMas was third, averaging 440,000 viewers, followed by Estrella TV (220,000) and Azteca America (90,000).
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” edged the “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” 8.449 million -8.446 million to be the most-watched network nightly newscast for third consecutive week.
The “CBS Evening News” was third, as it has been throughout Scott Pelley’s more than five years as anchor, averaging 6.498 million viewers for its Monday through Wednesday and Friday newscast.
CBS did not include Thursday in its weekly average because of preemptions and schedule changes in some markets because of “Thursday Night Football.”
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and its nine-minute kickoff show; CBS’ “NCIS” and “The Big Bang Theory”; ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”; CBS’ “60 Minutes” and “Thursday Night Football”; the Monday episode of NBC’s “The Voice”; CNN’s coverage of Sunday’s presidential debate; and CBS’ 29-minute presidential debate analysis program.
—City News Service
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