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CBS is claiming a ratings victory for the 2020-21 season — a month before the season comes to a close.
The network is on track to take the “most watched” title for the 13th consecutive season. Through April 25, CBS is averaging 6.26 million viewers in primetime, about 870,000 more than second-place NBC (5.39 million). With four weeks remaining in the traditional September to May season, that’s essentially an insurmountable lead. Hence the earlier-than-usual victory lap.
ABC currently ranks third with 4.76 million viewers, a little ahead of Fox’s 4.33 million.
CBS’ win was aided greatly by having the Super Bowl — which, although it hit a 14-year low at 91.63 million viewers, was the most watched primetime program of the season by more than 50 million viewers.
CBS also had the No. 2 primetime show in the NFL’s AFC Championship game and used the Super Bowl to launch the season’s top new series, The Equalizer. The network’s special Oprah With Meghan and Harry drew 17.8 million viewers, more than any primetime entertainment program except the post-Super Bowl Equalizer premiere.
“In a season complicated by production delays and scheduling interruptions, it feels very gratifying to deliver another winning schedule, launch television’s biggest new hit and broadcast one of the most memorable prime time events in recent years,” said CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl. “The performance of our amazing, premium quality series continues to dominate the network landscape, while adding valuable reach through the company’s many digital offerings.”
Of course, the picture isn’t all rosy. Though it will win the season, CBS is down 7 percent in viewers vs. 2019-20, and the big four broadcasters collectively are off by 10 percent. NBC is also off by 7 percent, and Fox has fallen 25 percent a year after having the Super Bowl on its air. ABC has edged up ever so slightly — it’s currently running about 14,000 viewers ahead of last season.
In the key ad demographic of adults 18-49, CBS is the only network up year-to-year, improving by a tenth of a point to a 1.0 rating. NBC and Fox are tied for first at 1.1 (though both down from last year), and ABC is flat at 0.9. The four networks are down by an average of 9 percent in the demo, with Fox again taking the biggest loss (27 percent) without the Super Bowl.
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