NBC’s ‘Password’ finds the secret to Nielsen ratings success

Jimmy Fallon, left, Keke Palmer and Jon Hamm in "Password" on NBC.
Jimmy Fallon, left, Keke Palmer and Jon Hamm in “Password” on NBC.
(Jordin Althaus/NBC)

Enough viewers stayed tuned to NBC last Tuesday after “America’s Got Talent” to make the latest incarnation of “Password” the most watched of the summer’s nine premieres on the five major broadcast networks.

The word-guessing game hosted by Keke Palmer, with Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon as the initial celebrity players, averaged 4.211 million viewers, eighth among prime-time and broadcast programs airing between Aug. 8 and Sunday and first among programs beginning at 10 p.m., according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.

“Password” retained 65.2% of “America’s Got Talent’s” audience. The two-hour “AGT” episode averaged 6.452 million viewers, finishing first for the third consecutive week and fifth time in seven weeks.


The summer’s previous high for a premiere was the ABC game show “Generation Gap,” which averaged 3.864 million viewers on July 7.

A second episode of “Password” that aired Wednesday was fourth for the week, averaging 4.576 million viewers for games with Fallon and model-turned-television host and businesswoman Heidi Klum. It followed the first Wednesday “America’s Got Talent” episode of the summer and retained 83.2% of its audience. The 61-minute “America’s Got Talent” episode was third for the week, averaging 5.499 million viewers.

The CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” was the only other prime-time program to average more than 5 million viewers, averaging 5.945 million viewers for an edition with three previously broadcast segments that were updated.

“America’s Got Talent” and “60 Minutes” have finished 1-2 in the ratings for three consecutive weeks and four of the past five.

Major League Baseball’s “Field of Dreams” game was the top-ranked prime-time sporting event and Fox’s ratings leader, averaging 3.103 million viewers, 24th for the week.

Viewership for the Chicago Cubs’ 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds was 47% less than the 5.851 million average for the inaugural game one year ago, a 9-8 victory by the Chicago White Sox over the New York Yankees, played near where the 1989 movie was filmed in Dyersville, Iowa.


NBC won the network race for the second consecutive week, averaging 2.72 million viewers, followed by CBS, which averaged 2.68 million.

ABC was third among the broadcast networks, averaging 2.45 million viewers.

“Celebrity Family Feud” was ABC’s highest-rated program for the seventh time in the seven weeks since the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final. Sunday’s games matching teams led by Kristin Chenoweth and Kathy Najimy and a matchup of the casts of the alternative series “My Unorthodox Life” and “Summer House” averaged 4.51 million viewers, fifth for the week.

NBC, CBS and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.

Fox averaged 1.81 million viewers for its 16 hours and 38 minutes of prime-time programming.

The CW averaged 310,000 viewers for its 14 hours of programming. Its biggest draw was the 8:30 p.m. Sunday rerun of “World’s Funniest Animals,” which averaged 487,000 viewers, 185th among broadcast programs. Its overall ranking was not available.

The CW aired the week’s other premiere, the Australian teen comedy-drama “Bump,” which averaged 364,000 viewers, tied for 206th among broadcast programs.

The top 20 prime-time programs consisted of two episodes each of “America’s Got Talent” and “Password”; “60 Minutes”; the ABC game shows “Celebrity Family Feud,” “The $100,000 Pyramid” and “Press Your Luck”; a rerun of the ABC alternative series “America’s Funniest Home Videos”; three episodes of the CBS alternative series “Big Brother”; a rerun of CBS’ “FBI”; six Fox News Channel weeknight political talk shows — three broadcasts of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” two of “Hannity” and one of “The Ingraham Angle”; and the Aug. 8 edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC.

Fox News Channel’s weeknight political talk shows airing Aug. 8 with breaking news coverage of the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s home were the week’s three top-ranked prime-time programs, led by “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which averaged 4.264 million viewers, sixth overall. The broadcast was guest-hosted by “Fox & Friends Weekend” host Will Cain.

Fox News Channel had 14 of the week’s 15 most-watched prime-time cable programs to win the cable network prime-time race for the 10th consecutive week. It averaged 2.664 million viewers, 28.2% more than its 2.078 million average the previous week.

MSNBC was second, averaging 1.503 million, 58.2% more than its 950,000 average the previous week. HGTV was third, averaging 972,000. CNN was fourth, four spots higher than the previous week, averaging 885,000 viewers, a 35.1% increase over its 655,000 average the previous week.

The cable top 20 consisted of 15 Fox News Channel weeknight political talk shows — five broadcasts each of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “Hannity” and “The Ingraham Angle” — and its Sunday political talk show, “Life, Liberty & Levin”; three MSNBC news and opinion programs — two broadcasts of “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” and the Aug. 8 edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show”; and the NFL Network’s coverage of Saturday’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Seattle Seahawks preseason game.

“The Sandman” was Netflix’s most-streamed program, with viewers spending 127.5 million hours watching the 10 episodes of the fantasy drama in their first full week of release, according to figures released by the streaming service. Viewership was up 83.5% from the 69.48 million hours watched the previous week when it was available for three days and was second for the week behind the film romance “Purple Hearts.”

Netflix’s most popular film was “Day Shift,” with viewers watching the vampire action comedy for 56.15 million hours in its first three days of release.