TV Ratings: 'Saturday Night Live' Celebrates 40 Years With Huge Haul

The NBC special nearly matches last Sunday's Grammys in its massive draw among viewers and adults 18-49.

NBC is probably wishing 40th anniversaries came along more often. The network's thee-and-a-half hour Sunday special to commemorate 40 years of Saturday Night Live did boffo in the ratings.

Read More The Hollywood Reporter's SNL40 Cover

Fast National returns from Nielsen Media give the three hours that aired in primetime an average 7.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 23.1 million viewers. (The final numbers, which will include the last half-hour, will likely be somewhat smaller.) Not far off from CBS' showing last Sunday night with the Grammy Awards, the massive haul rivaled many outings of the network's Sunday Night Football franchise.

In fact, it currently stands as the network’s top-rated primetime entertainment telecast, excluding post-Super Bowl programs, since the Will & Grace finale more than eight years ago. It also easily outdid the network's huge showing in 2013 for The Sound of Music Live, likely stoking the flames that are already thirsty for more live programming across the broadcast networks.

Interest in SNL was so great, red carpet coverage that led into the special easily ranked as the No. 2 program of the night. It averaged a 3.0 rating among adults 18-49 and 11.1 million viewers. 

ABC also celebrated an anniversary on Sunday, albeit a muted one. The 25th anniversary special of America's Funniest Home Videos clocked a steady 1.4 rating in the key demo ahead of a special Sunday Bachelor (1.5 adults).

The late Bob Simon's final segment aired on 60 Minutes (1.2 adults) ahead of lows on the CBS lineup of Undercover Boss (0.9 adults) and back-to-back episodes of CSI (1.1 adults). With no renewal in sight for the aging procedural, that season finale may be the last we see of the franchise parent series.  

Mulaney (0.4 adults) also finally wrapped its run on Fox ahead of a steady Simpsons (1.1 adults). Brooklyn Nine-Nine (0.9 adults) dropped three-tenths of a point to a season low, while Family Guy (1.2 adults) dropped two-tenths and Bob's Burger's (0.9 adults) held.