What Shows Led CBS to Claim a 13th Straight Full-Season Viewership Victory?

Shows, not specials — so Super Bowl LV and that big Oprah interview don’t count

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CBS was in a real hurry to lay claim to the still-ongoing September-to-May TV season in terms of primetime total viewers, its 13th such victory in a row, but what shows got them to that milestone?

Well, primarily it was one telecast, of course, Super Bowl LV. The Tom Brady-led big game didn’t score particularly big numbers for a Super Bowl, but 96 million-plus viewers is 96 million-plus viewers. And immediately afterward, Queen Latifah’s reboot of “The Equalizer” reboot bowed to more than 20 million total viewers.

CBS had one other giant worth singling out here: Oprah Winfrey’s bombshell (yes, we’re tired of writing that descriptor too) interview of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which earned 17.8 million total viewers in March.

Now, forget all of that. (Or at least most of that minus “The Equalizer.”)

Below are CBS’ Top 10 series of the Nielsen season. No. 1, which ought to look familiar, comes with an asterisk. We’ll explain that in a moment.

*OK, the asterisk. That nearly 14 million viewer tally for “The Equalizer” includes the inflated debut number from its post-Super Bowl series premiere. If we remove that one episode from the equation, which is arguably more fair to do, “The Equalizer” would average 11.26 million total viewers and swap spots with “NCIS” for the top-performing show on the network.

Either way you slice it, “The Equalizer” Season 1 and “NCIS” Season 18 are the top two dramas on TV in terms of overall audience size, so CBS is fine with all of our hemming and hawing here.

Actually, the network has the four most-watched shows of any sort: NBC’s “Chicago Fire” follows “60 Minutes” as the No. 5 show in this season’s ratings, with 10.29 million average viewers.

“In a season complicated by production delays and scheduling interruptions, it feels very gratifying to deliver another winning schedule, launch television’s biggest new hit and broadcast one of the most memorable prime time events in recent years,” Kelly Kahl, president of CBS Entertainment, said on Thursday. “The performance of our amazing, premium quality series continues to dominate the network landscape, while adding valuable reach through the company’s many digital offerings.”

All numbers in this story come from Nielsen’s “most current” ratings data set through Sunday, April 25 and include one week of (mostly) DVR viewing where available. The September-to-May season ends on May 26.

It is probably too early to call a winner in the key adults 18-49 ratings demographic. Using the same Nielsen data stream CBS used to pat itself on the back, Fox and NBC are currently tied for first place with a pair of 1.1 ratings. We’ll say this, though: Fox has the reality juggernaut “The Masked Singer” and NBC does not.

In the advertiser-coveted demo, CBS is currently averaging a 1.0 rating and ABC has a 0.9 rating. They won’t catch up.

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