We’re Watching More TV Than Ever — What Stay-At-Home Has Done for TV Ratings

Chicago Fire Taylor Kinney
Adrian Burrows/NBC
Chicago Fire

We may be practicing social distancing, but we’re getting close to our favorite TV characters and news anchors. As stay-at-home measures continue, Americans are watching more live TV to get updates on the coronavirus crisis and some much-needed entertainment.

No surprise that heroes are earning top marks, evident with NBC’s Chicago Med and Chicago Fire. The March 25 episode of Med pulled in a Season 5 high of 9.6 million viewers (and also tied as the second-highest-rated in the series’ run).

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The episode will be shot using FaceTime, WebEx, Zoom and other online tech, with the cast recording footage from their homes.

That same night, Fire brought the heat, drawing 9.2 million viewers to land as its top-rated episode in more than six years. March 24’s NCIS on CBS grabbed a whopping 13.2 million viewers, its largest since February 2019; the March 30 finale of ABC’s The Good Doctor, which dealt with the aftermath of an earthquake, pulled in 7.7 million viewers, the most all season.

It’s a sign of the times that audiences are drawn to the work of first responders. “People have always embraced heroes, the central characters in these real-life dramas,” says Chicago franchise executive producer Dick Wolf. “Viewers can appreciate what they do and that they are there for us.”

The Conners (Credit: ABC)

News programming is seeing spikes too. CBS’s 60 Minutes was the No. 1 show for the week ending March 22 and the top nonscripted series for the week ending March 29, with 10.9 million and 10.5 million viewers, respectively, tuning in for coronavirus updates. Also on the network, March 22’s Face the Nation had its best audience in 28 years, with 5.1 million viewers. Nonstop cable news grew up to 151 percent (as CNN experienced) for the week ending March 22 when compared with the same period last year.

Ellen’s Game of Games (Credit: NBC)

No surprise, viewers are also looking to laugh, which explains why sitcoms such as NBC’s Superstore and ABC’s The Conners both reached season highs in recent weeks. The pure fun of Ellen’s Game of Games on NBC must be therapeutic: The March 24 installment attracted the biggest audience in more than a year. Whether ratings continue to rise remains to be seen, but for now, it’s something worth celebrating…from a distance.

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They will be 'rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021,' according to a statement.

Shows Keep Getting Postponed — and Rescheduled

With the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country, TV shows, sports and specials continue to get new airdates or be canceled altogether.

● Keep training! The Tokyo Summer Olympics, set to kick off in July, has been pushed back one year. The Games (likely to feature gymnast Simone Biles) will now run July 23–August 8, 2021.

● Batters up? Major League Baseball hopes to hold Opening Day between mid-May and mid-June.

● ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy will not resume production this spring; the last show of Season 16 airs April 9. No word yet if the remaining four episodes will be shot for next season or scrapped.

● Postproduction on the April 12 season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead could not be completed, so the zombie drama ended its run April 5. The original finale will air later this year. Meanwhile, the debut of spinoff The Walking Dead: World Beyond has been moved to later in 2020.

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The ceremony honoring theatrical achievements was to be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

● As the Great White Way remains dark, Broadway’s best will have to wait to receive their trophies — the June 7 Tony Awards have been delayed to a still-undetermined date.

● HBO’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, honoring Depeche Mode, Whitney Houston and others, is now set for November 7.

● The 55th Academy of Country Music Awards, hosted by singer Keith Urban, will air September 16 on CBS.