2015 TV Ratings: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC Battle For Bragging Rights

TheWrap Rewind 2015: Football is driving force as networks jockey for top calendar-year spot

The year 2015 is nearly in the books, but before it’s history, let’s take a trip down recent ratings memory lane.

Below are the calendar year 2015 rankings in the key 18-49 demographic, per Nielsen’s “most current” ratings data set, which includes seven-day delayed viewing up through Dec. 6 of this year. After that, only live-plus-same-day numbers are available, and thus, used.

1. NBC: 2.1
2. CBS: 1.9 (tie)
ABC: 1.9 (tie)
4. Fox: 1.7
5. CW: 0.7

To give those numbers some context, NBC is poised to win its second calendar year in a row, and third in four years. The network has also taken the last two seasons in a row, whether looking at September-September or the traditonal September-May fall season.

Using the same data set, below is the story among total viewers. As you can see, not only does CBS break its tie with ABC, it leapfrogs NBC to maintain its claim as “America’s Most-Watched Network.”

1. CBS: 9.4 million
2. NBC: 7.8 million
3. ABC: 6.8 million
4. Fox: 5.2 million
5. CW: 1.8 million

While the CW clearly ranks a distant last-place by both counts, there is a silver lining: The youngest-skewing network is the only one to have grown in 2015 versus 2014, up 17 percent in the main demo and 4 percent among total viewers.

The biggest loser by both counts is Fox, which is down 15 percent in the key demographic and minus 12 percent among total viewers, calendar year over calendar year. To be fair to Fox, the network had the Super Bowl in 2014, which made some drop-off all but inevitable.

As for the other networks, NBC is down 9 percent in the demo and 6 percent among overall audience. While it claimed the Super Bowl in 2015, the broadcast channel had the Winter Olympics in 2014.

CBS ticked down 5 percent in the demo year over year, but was essentially flat among total viewers. CBS is poised to grow in 2016, with the highly anticipated Super Bowl 50 on its schedule. It will be interesting to monitor its calendar year and Sept.-Sept. battle with NBC, which is currently having a great fall and boasts the Summer Olympics next year.

Steady ABC had no measurable change in either metric from 2014 to 2015.

Finally, because it’s Christmas — here are the Top 15 shows of ’15, per viewers 18-49:
1. “Sunday Night Football” (NBC): 7.9
2. “Empire” (FOX): 7.3
3. “Thursday Night Football” (CBS): 6.0
4. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS): 5.7
5. “Sunday Night Football” pre-kick show (NBC): 5.6
6. “The OT” (FOX): 4.8
7. “Football Night in America” (NBC): 4.2
8. “Blindspot” (NBC): 4.1
9. “Scandal” (ABC): 4.1
10. “Modern Family” (ABC): 4.0
11. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC): 3.9
12. “The Voice” (NBC): 3.8
(tie) “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC) 3.8 (tie)
14. “The Voice” (NBC): 3.3
15. “The Blacklist” (NBC): 3.0