The Chargers’ 24-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on “Sunday Night Football” drew the program’s smallest audience in nearly a year, enabling Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” to end the five-week streak of an NBC-NFL broadcast game being the week’s most-watched prime-time program.
The New England Patriots 35-14 victory over the New York Giants on “Thursday Night Football” averaged 16.26 million viewers to be the most-watched prime-time program between Oct. 7 and Sunday, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen on Tuesday.
“Sunday Night Football” was second for the week, averaging 14.89 million viewers, the least for a “Sunday Night Football” game since Oct. 28, 2018, when the New Orleans Saints 30-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings opposite the fifth and final game of the World Series averaged 14.09 million viewers.
Factors depressing the Chargers-Steelers audience included the teams’ combined 3-6 record entering into the game, Pittsburgh taking a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter and Steelers undrafted rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges making his first start.
Despite the lower viewership than usual, “Sunday Night Football” was watched by nearly 2.5 million more viewers than the week’s most-watched non-NFL program, the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes,” which drew its largest audience since March 31, 12.41 million viewers, finishing third for the week.
The audience for “60 Minutes” was bolstered by the 31-minute runover of CBS’ afternoon NFL coverage into prime time that immediately preceded it in the Eastern and Central time zones and averaged 25.57 million viewers.
CBS combined having four of the week’s five most-watched scripted programs with the high viewership for its early Sunday evening programming to be the week’s most-watched network for the first time in the three-week-old 2019-20 prime-time television season, averaging 6.62 million viewers.
NBC was second for the second consecutive week, averaging 6.35 million, followed by Fox, which averaged 6.02 million viewers for its 17 hours of programming, and ABC, which averaged 4.02 million viewers to finish fourth for the third time this season.
For the third time this season, CBS had the most-watched entertainment program, “NCIS,” sixth for the week, averaging 11.21 million; the most-watched comedy, “Young Sheldon,” 13th for the week, averaging 7.642 million viewers; and the most-watched new series, “Bob Hearts Abishola,” 39th for the week, averaging 5.3 million.
NBC’s most-watched programs outside of its NFL coverage, for the third time this season, were its two editions of “The Voice.” The hourlong Tuesday episode was 10th for the week, fourth among non-NFL programs, averaging 8.55 million viewers, one spot ahead of the two-hour Monday edition which averaged 8.54 million viewers.
Fox’s most-watched non-NFL program, for the second consecutive week, was the procedural drama “9-1-1,” 17th for the week and 10th among non-NFL programs, averaging 7.36 million viewers.
Fox’s coverage of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the first game of Major League Baseball’s postseason airing on broadcast television, was second in its Saturday night time slot behind the Florida-LSU college football game on ESPN, averaging 6.11 million viewers, 30th for the week.
LSU’s 42-28 victory over Florida averaged 6.45 million viewers, 25th for the week and second among cable programs. The audience was the largest for a regular-season college football game on ESPN since Nov. 11, 2017, when it averaged 7.13 million for Alabama’s fourth-quarter rally for a 31-24 victory over Mississippi State.
ABC’s most-watched program was “Dancing with the Stars,” 27th for the week, averaging 6.398 million viewers.
For the fifth time in five weeks, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” was the most-watched cable program, with the San Francisco 49ers’ 31-3 victory over the Cleveland Browns averaging 11.56 million viewers, fourth for the week.
ESPN was the most-watched cable network in prime time for the second consecutive week after back-to-back second-place finishes behind Fox News Channel, averaging 3.03 million viewers.
Fox News Channel was second for the second consecutive week, averaging 2.72 million viewers. TBS was third for the second consecutive week, thanks to coverage of National League postseason baseball, averaging 2.22 million viewers.