It's been a while, but the Peacock can again spread its feathers with pride.
The addition of TV's hottest new show, "The Blacklist," to a roster that already featured broadcast's top-rated primetime program ("Sunday Night Football") and top reality show ("The Voice") has vaulted NBC to an unlikely first-place finish for the season in key demos. It's the first time the Peacock has been perched atop the network standings at season's end since "Friends" exited its air following the 2003-04 season.
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Prior to last year, NBC had gone nine consecutive traditional seasons (September-May) without topping any of its rivals in adults 18-49. But after catching ABC a few years ago and moving ahead of the Alphabet last year, the Peacock this season also leap-frogged Fox and CBS to complete its outhouse-to-penthouse transformation.
NBC's improvements this season coincided with troubles at its rivals, as the Peacock was up vs. last year while ABC, CBS and Fox all declined to their lowest-ever season average. (CW was the only other broadcaster up.)
Overall through Sunday (and with three nights to be counted in the 2013-14 season that ends Wednesday), NBC led in adults 18-49 with a 2.7 rating/8 share (up 13% from last year). It was followed by Fox (2.5/7, even), CBS (2.4/7, down 17%), ABC (2.1/6, down 5%), Univision (1.2/3, down 20%) and CW (0.8/2). ABC is likely to end at 2.2 (which would leave it down 4%), and there's a shot that NBC could rise to a 2.8 (for a 17% gain).
The 2.7 rating is the best for NBC in four years, and its year-to-year improvement of 13% in 18-49 is the best for any network since ABC in 2004-05 (the year it bowed "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost").
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NBC also will finish the season No. 1 in adults 25-54 -- a tick ahead of CBS -- while the Eye will win in total viewers for the sixth straight season and the 11th time in 12 years.
CBS averaged 10.73 million viewers through Sunday (down 9% from last year), followed by NBC (9.28 million, up 33%), ABC (7.59 million, down 4%), Fox (7.35 million, up 4%), Univision (3.00 million, down 19%) and CW (1.89 million, up 6%)
As always, sports was a key factor in the network race, and Fox benefited from having the season's two top-rated primetime telecasts in the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship. CBS, on the other hand, had to endure comparisons to last year when it was the network airing football's two most-watched games.
As for NBC, 18 nights of the Winter Olympics certainly helped pad its averages, but even with those nights excluded, the net still would have eked past Fox for most adults 18-49 viewers. It also would have still finished second in total viewers.
The networks are pretty tightly bunched when it comes to non-sports averages for the season, with CBS out front (2.3/7), followed by NBC and ABC (both 2.2/6) and Fox (2.0/6).
For NBC, its first-place finish can be largely attributed to its top three series -- "Sunday Night Football," "The Voice" and "The Blacklist" -- which ranked among the season's five most popular broadcast programs in adults 18-49.
"Sunday Night Football" is the season's No. 1 series in 18-49, and though "The Voice" seemed to soften a bit in its spring edition, it finishes as the dominant reality program in demos and No. 2 broadcast entertainment series overall.
James Spader drama "The Blacklist" gave NBC a scripted presence near the top of the rankings for the first time in years. Boosted by record-setting DVR playback, it was the season's No. 1 new series and No. 2 drama overall in 18-49 (and it's No. 1 among Big Four dramas if only originals are counted).
NBC still has some work to do to become more consistent across the week and season, but the net has laid down a much stronger foundation that it had just a couple of years ago. And it showed gains on six of seven nights.
In addition to "The Blacklist," "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago PD" performed well, and "Grimm" is Friday's No. 1 series in 18-49 (thanks to DVR playback).
NBC Wraps TV Season As Demo Champ for First Time Since '04
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