CBS wins the week with football, ‘NCIS’; CNN leads on inauguration coverage

Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the inauguration ceremony.
(Associated Press)

The combination of the AFC championship game and the week’s four top-ranked entertainment programs gave CBS the largest audience for any network since last year’s Super Bowl.

CBS averaged 10.41 million viewers for its 22 hours of prime-time programming between Jan. 18 and Sunday, the most since Fox averaged 25.09 million for its 16 hours of programming the week of Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2020, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.

The previous high in the 18-week-old 2020-21 prime-time television season was Fox’s 9.05-million average for its 16 hours of programming the week of Jan. 11-17.


The Kansas City Chiefs’ 38-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday averaged 41.847 million viewers, the most for any prime-time program since Super Bowl Sunday. The season’s previous high was 35.643 million viewers for Fox’s coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 30-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints in an NFL divisional playoff game Jan. 17.

The prime-time NFL conference championship game is customarily the highest-rated program to that point of the season.

President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, outside of primetime, was watched by 33.8 million TV viewers, beating the average of 30.6 million for Donald Trump’s ceremony in 2017.

CNN’s inauguration coverage had the biggest audience, averaging 7.9 million from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by MSNBC, 5.32 million; ABC, 5.2 million; NBC, 4.6 million; CBS, 4 million; and Fox News, 2.3 million.

The 9-10 p.m. segment of CNN’s prime-time inauguration coverage was the week’s top-ranked cable program, averaging 7.078 million viewers, eighth for the week.

CNN won the cable network race for the second time in three weeks with 2.757 million viewers. MSNBC was second, averaging 2.665 million, and Fox News Channel third, averaging 2.56 million.

NBC’s top-rated program was the 90-minute special “Celebrating America,” with highlights of the inauguration, averaging 9 million viewers, 33rd for the week. The special also aired live on ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC and streamed on several services.

The first original episode of the CBS action drama “NCIS” since Dec. 8 was the week’s most-watched entertainment program, averaging 9.637 million viewers, third overall, behind the 19-minute AFC championship postgame show, which averaged 17.884 million. A second original episode that followed averaged 8.747 million viewers, fifth for the week.

The episode of the CBS crime drama “FBI” that followed the AFC championship postgame show averaged a season-high 8.993 million viewers, second among entertainment programs and fourth overall.

CBS also had the week’s biggest audience of a comedy for “Young Sheldon,” sixth overall and fourth among entertainment programs, averaging 7.385 million viewers.

ABC was second for the week, averaging 3.38 million viewers, followed by Fox, which averaged 2.71 million for its 15 hours of programming, and NBC, which averaged 2.51 million.

ABC and NBC also broadcast 22 hours of prime-time programming.

The season premiere of Fox’s procedural drama “9-1-1” was the week’s highest-rated primetime program not on CBS, averaging 7.203 million viewers, seventh overall and fifth among entertainment programs.

“Celebrity Family Feud” had ABC’s biggest audience for the third time in the three weeks it has aired, averaging 6.304 million viewers, 10th for the week, eighth among nonsports programs and seventh among entertainment programs.

“Soul” was the most-streamed program in Nielsen’s latest weekly report on viewership of streaming programming, with viewers watching 1.669 billion minutes of the Pixar computer-animated fantasy comedy-drama in the first three days it was available on Disney+.