How NBC Hit #1 in Premiere Week and Ended CBS' 10-Year Streak

Dan Clarendon
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Congratulations are in store for NBC.

The network ranked #1 in the coveted 18-to-49 demographic during this TV season’s premiere week — and it’s the eighth consecutive year that NBC has won or tied for the top spot — but it also ended CBS’ 10-year streak as the network with the most premiere week viewership overall. The feat is even more impressive when you consider that NBC hasn’t won premiere week in total viewers in 18 years.

According to live-plus-same-day averages from Nielsen, NBC got 7.5 million viewers, CBS got 6.9, Fox got 5.8, and ABC got 4.7. In the 18-to-49 demo, NBC scored a 1.8 rating, Fox got 1.7, CBS got 1.0, and ABC got 0.9.

So how did the Peacock Network pull it off? For starters, you can thank football fans. The September 29 showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys ranked as the most-watched Week 4 airing of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, with a total audience of 24.1 million (including digital viewers), as Deadline reports. That’s up 35 percent over last year’s Week 4 airing of SNF, and it marks the most-watched regular-season game in nearly three years.

Matt Dinerstein/NBC

But we’re not all sports buffs, and you can’t count out NBC’s scripted and reality programming. This Is Us won the night of September 24 with 7.67 million viewers and a 1.8 share in the demo. The “One Chicago” block—i.e. Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D.—returned strong on September 25, with P.D. winning the 10 p.m. hour that night.

Meanwhile, The Voice ranked as September 30’s most-watched show, with 8.78 million viewers and a 1.6 rating in the demo.

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But NBC should still be concerned, as should CBS and ABC. All three networks lost viewers overall and in the 18-to-49 demo between last season’s premiere week and this one. The only network that improved in both categories was Fox, thanks to wins like The Masked Singer and Thursday Night Football.

All of that is to say, NBC and the other broadcast networks should start figuring out how to get viewers back to their end of the dial.