The NFL Dominates TV’s Top Programs of the Year, Again

December 19, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Social TV & Multi-Screening | Sports | Television | TV Audiences & Consumption

Nielsen-Top-10-TV-Programs-of-2013-Dec2013.xlsAs in 2011 and 2012, this year’s top TV programs were almost exclusively the realm of NFL telecasts, reveals Nielsen, with NFL programming occupying 9 of the top 10 shows of the year. Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens took the top spot, with 108.7 million viewers (37.6% of US viewers aged 2 and older). Almost all of those viewers (106.6 million) stayed tuned through the blackout.

Other Super Bowl-related programs followed in the #3 and #4 positions, while NFL playoff games occupied 4 of the remaining 5 spots in the top 10. The Oscars drew 40.4 million viewers to take the #7 spot; last year, the GRAMMY Awards (39.9 million) was the only non-sports telecast to break into the top 10.

American Idol Tumbles

While “American Idol” had topped the list of primetime programs from 2007 through 2011, it was bumped out of the top spot by “Sunday Night Football” last year, and this year tumbled all the way to the 7th position. Meanwhile, NBC’s highly-rated live sports event attracted an average audience of 21.7 million viewers (a persons 2+ rating of 7.4, slightly up from last year), justifying its hefty price tag for ads. In fact, the pre-kickoff show on Sunday night was the second-highest rated regularly scheduled primetime TV show of the year, while another NFL show, FOX’s “The OT” came in 3rd, edging CBS’s “NCIS,” the top non-sports primetime program.

Notably, a sitcom – CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” which itself carries a hefty spot price tag – made the list, coming in at #8.

Time-Shifting Doubles Viewership For Some Programs

TV viewers are increasingly using their DVRs, and this practice has led to significantly broader audiences when factoring in delayed viewing.

In fact, according to Nielsen, a number of cable shows ”“ and scripted dramas in particular ”“ saw large gains when including viewing from sources such as DVR, video-on-demand, and StartOver. FX’s “The Bridge” experienced the greatest increase in viewers, with the program’s viewing audience increased by 164% when factoring in timeshifted viewing (within 7 days). Last year’s top timeshifted program (in relative terms) saw a smaller 130% increase, while the year before, the top timeshifted program had an audience increase of 95%.

This year each of the top 10 timeshifted programs more than doubled their viewership when factoring in delayed audiences – with AMC’s “Breaking Bad” in the 10th spot by virtue of its 117.8% increase.

While cable shows saw the biggest relative increases when including timeshifted viewing, broadcast programs saw the largest absolute gains (as they had larger bases to begin with). NBC’s “The Blacklist” enjoyed the largest absolute increase in viewers, such that the program’s TV viewing audience grew by about 7.8 million viewers from the live audience when including timeshifted viewing.

FOX’s “The Following” (5.6 million), CBS’s “Under the Dome” (5.4 million) followed in terms of absolute audience boost, with ABC’s new series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (5.34 million) and FOX’s “Sleepy Hollow” (5.33 million) rounding out the top 5, perhaps on account of all of the buzz they received.

Breaking Bad the Top Program on Twitter

No surprises here – AMC’s hit show, “Breaking Bad” also broke Twitter, with an average unique audience of more than 6 million, meaning that roughly 6 million distinct Twitter accounts saw at least one or more different Tweets about the program per new or live episode during the Fall season (September through November).

AMC also had the second-ranked show on Twitter, “Walking Dead,” which has averaged a unique audience of about 4.9 million accounts.

MarketingCharts tracked the top 10 TV programs on Twitter on a weekly basis. The latest chart can be found here.

About the Data: Nielsen’s top individual telecasts data is from December 31, 2012 ”“ December 8, 2013 and includes English- and Spanish-language telecasts on Broadcast and Cable, but excludes breakouts and telecasts under 5 minutes in duration. Persons 2+ estimates include Live and Same Day timeshifted viewing.

The top timeshifted TV programs by absolute difference is based on data from 12/31/2012 to 11/24/2013 and measures the absolute difference between Live Person 2+ and Live+7 projections. A program must reach at least a 1.0 live+7 P2+ rating and have at least 4 telecasts. Excludes breakouts, specials and programs less than 5 minutes in duration.

The Twitter TV rankings are based on data from 9/1/2013-11/30/2013. The data includes new/live episodes of regularly scheduled series programs only and excludes programs with less than 4 telecasts. Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are only available for English-language U.S. Broadcast and Cable Networks.

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