EXCLUSIVE: CBS has topped primetime, daytime and late-night TV viewership for a second 52-week season in a row.
While in a virtual dead-heat with NBC for overall total reach, the ViacomCBS-owned network averaged 6.32 million viewers in the highly valued 8-11 PM period for the 2019-2020 full-year season, says Nielsen. To put that in another perspective, CBS beat the Comcast-owned network by 723,000 sets of eyeballs in primetime, according to data spanning from September 23, 2019-September 13, 2020.
That primetime win for CBS was in no small part thanks to NCIS. The 20-episode 17th season of the Mark Harmon-led procedural snared an average audience of 15.3 million, making it the most watched series on the small screen. The most watched show on primetime last season was NBC’s flagship NFL show Sunday Night Football, which averaged 20 million viewers.
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In total reach for the full year, Nielsen says NBC averaged 228.2 million viewers across all dayparts. CBS was mathematically on the nose with 227.8 million, followed by 226 million for Fox and 221.4 million for ABC in the 6+-minute qualifier metric.
Now, except for 2020 Super Bowl hosts Fox and Univision, every network was down this season in the 52-week averages. Looking over the viewership landscape excluding sports, NBC actually moved closer to CBS in the past two seasons than at any point since 2002-03.
However, a win is a win, and to toss in some more sweet math for CBS, this is the 11th time in the past 12 years that the George Cheeks-led network has been the winner in full-year primetime. In 2017-2018, CBS won the season but NBC got the gold medal for the full year thanks in part to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
CBS also grabbed its 34th consecutive win in Daytime with an average of 3.34 million viewers, compared with runner-up ABC’s 2.21 million.
CBS also has extended its midnight hour victory lap. For a fourth year in a row, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has proven the late-night winner over The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Colbert topped the ex-SNLer by 1.52 million viewers with 3.46 million on average to Fallon’s 1.94 million. In fact, The Late Show scored another demo win over the Tonight Show with an average of 532,000 in the adults 18-49 demo.
“For the second consecutive year, CBS has come out on top in primetime, daytime and late night,” CBS Entertainment boss Kelly Kahl told Deadline on Thursday. “This is a clear demonstration of a consistently strong schedule that benefits our stations, our affiliates, and our marketing partners,” the exec added. “We’re now excited to turn the page to a new season, a Super Bowl season for CBS, and another opportunity to build on our winning track record.”
As production continues to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns, the ViacomCBS-owned net has Super Bowl LV set for February 7, 2021, in Tampa Bay. There may be little more than a handful of fans in the giant stadiums because of COVID-19 safety protocols, but the past week has seen the NFL take to the field on schedule for its new season. That can only be good news for CBS and its Super Bowl plans going into the 2020-21 season.
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