CBS Is No Longer The Most-Watched Network After A Decade-Long Streak
For the past ten years, CBS has been the most-watched network on TV due to its wildly dedicated viewer base. Though it still relies on dependable hits like The Big Bang Theory and NCIS, the Eye Network’s dominance has been chipped away little by little, thanks to stronger outside competition combining with a diminishing linear TV audience. Now, after a decade at the top, CBS has fallen to NBC, which is the leader in total viewership for the first time since the 2001-2002 TV season. Finally, some good news for the Pearson family!
To be fair, we’re only 20 weeks into the 2017-2018 TV season, so NBC’s current viewership victory over CBS isn’t necessarily going to be the one that history remembers, but it’s still quite the laudable achievement. When taking Nielsen’s most up-to-date statistics into account, the network is currently leading the network pack with an average of 9.57 million viewers for the season. That’s NBC’s own highest average since the 2006-2007 season, when it was actually in last place among the Big Four. (That alone should be a crazy indication of how far traditional TV viewing has dropped off.)
This is an especially big win for NBC, since it has already held the honor of being TV’s top-rated network in the key 18-49 age demographics, which is often the more important stat for advertisers. NBC picked up the demo rating crown in 2014 and has held on ever since, with its younger-skewing shows consistently bringing bigger age-related crowds than CBS’ stalwart procedurals and sitcoms.
Taking a look at NBC’s programming, it’s not all that shocking to see that it has risen above the rest. They’re rocking the drama and sitcom strength of This Is Us and Will & Grace‘s revival, they’re flying high on the unscripted success of The Voice and America’s Got Talent, and no one can deny the mountainous win of hosting this year’s Super Bowl (and the post-Bowl This Is Us episode), not to mention the Winter Olympics. And even though Sunday Night Football took the same ratings hit that other NFL programming has, it still did better than Thursday Night Football, which NBC and CBS were both contracted to air at different points of the most recent season. (Fox will be taking over for the next five years, though.)
If the CBS vs. NBC rivalry here is the macrocosm, it’s curiously a reversal of the microcosm competition happening between CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Colbert has been celebrating wins in the overall viewership category, while trying its damnedest to win over enough 18-49-year-olds to completely dominate the late night game. Too bad for CBS that Colbert’s audience isn’t big enough to tip the scales completely away from NBC.
With the Olympics currently taking over everyone’s attention spans on NBC, most networks are choosing to air repeats, rather than risking lower audience turnout. So tune in nightly until the PyeongChang Games are complete, and then head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what other new shows are on the way.