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The 2022-23 broadcast television season has officially concluded with NBC and CBS back at the top of the Nielsen charts. NBC’s football coverage stole the show, but among scripted programming NCIS was the clear winner, though the One Chicago franchise held strong as well. Broadcast comedies and dramas dominated the list of most watched scripted series on ad-supported linear networks this past season with one major exception, Paramount Network’s Yellowstone, which topped them all with 11.5M viewers.
As Deadline reported last month, CBS was primetime’s most-watched broadcast network this season with an average of 5.96M viewers per weeknight, which is slightly down from last year when the network cracked 6M viewers, per Nielsen’s most current data. This is the 15th consecutive year that CBS has been first in viewers, so this year’s victory shouldn’t be too surprising.
Once again, both staple series and newcomers contributed to CBS’ audience victory, including NCIS, which held onto its crown as the most-watched scripted series of the television season with 9.86M viewers. However, the series lost about a million average viewers season-over-season, which speaks to the continued decline in broadcast viewership overall. In fact, excluding sports, the four most-watched programs of the season hailed from CBS, including FBI, Blue Bloods and Young Sheldon.
Sophomore series Ghosts ranked among the Top 10 most-watched primetime series, as did CBS’ new offering Fire Country. CBS boasts 20 of the Top 40 series in terms of total viewers over the course of the season.
This year’s cancellations were much more tame for CBS, with only three shows getting the boot. Among them was first year procedural East New York, which was the most-watched broadcast series to get cancelled this season.
NBC claimed three spots among the Top 15 most-watched series of the broadcast season with its One Chicago franchise. Chicago Fire came in as NBC’s most-watched primetime program of the season (excluding sports) at No. 5 overall with an average audience of 9.2M.
Overall, the network easily came out victorious with its Sunday Night Football programming. The NFL regular season delivered record viewership for all the broadcast networks, and NBC certainly benefitted with an average of 18M people tuning in for Sunday Night Football. The pre-kickoff coverage averaged over 13M. Deadline previously reported that SNF was up 3% from last season and scored its best viewership since 2019.
ABC was next to make the Top 40, with American Idol ranking as the network’s most-watched non-sports primetime program of the TV season. Of course, ABC also benefitted from its NFL programming, as it began simulcasting ESPN’s Monday Night Football matchups this season, opening the door for a much larger audience for the Disney-owned linear channels. In all, when excluding sports, ABC had nine series among the Top 40 most-watched, more than half of which were unscripted. Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy also eked in at the bottom of the list.
ABC’s unscripted fare helped it declare victory in entertainment programming for the season, at least in terms of adults 18-49 demo ratings. The network touted six of the TV season’s highest-rated primetime programs — American Idol Sunday (0.9 rating), The Bachelor (0.8 rating), Bachelor in Paradise Tuesday (0.8 rating), American Idol Monday (0.7 rating), Jeopardy! Masters Monday (0.7 rating) and Bachelor in Paradise Monday (0.7 rating).
As for Fox, the network claimed two spots among the Top 40. Just like last year, 9-1-1 marked Fox’s most-watched non-sports program of the season. This is certainly bittersweet news for Fox, since the network cancelled 9-1-1 after six seasons this year, and the first responder drama is moving to ABC for Season 7. 9-1-1: Lone Star, which is staying at Fox for Season 5, also made the list.
Expectedly, programming for The CW did not make the Top 40. This season marks a major transition for The CW, as Nexstar begins its revamp. The network has already cancelled many of its scripted series, and the status of the rest hang in the balance, with the exception of All American, which is the network’s highest-rated scripted program, and Walker. The football drama will be returning for Season 6, though the spinoff All American: Homecoming is still in limbo.
Here are the Top 40 programs of the 2022-23 broadcast season in total viewers with sports and excluding sports (for a larger view, click here):