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NBC Beats ABC to 3rd in Ratings; ‘Sunday Night Football’ Ousts ‘American Idol’ as Top Show

NBC claims both victories after eight years

NBC's "Sunday Night Football" has broken the eight-year streak for "American Idol" as television's highest-rated show, and — also for the first time in eight years — NBC climbed to third place in the ratings.

NBC bested ABC by averaging a 2.5 rating to ABC's 2.4 in the 18-49 demographic most important to advertisers. ABC, which remains ahead of NBC in total viewers, confirmed to TheWrap that NBC had bested it in the demo.

It is NBC's first third-place finish since the 2003-4 season. (It rounded up to a tie with ABC in 2009-10 in the rating, though ABC beat it in viewers in the demo.)

Also read: How NBC Can Break Into 3rd Place This Season

The ratings win gives some bragging rights to NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who gets to claim it after his first full season on the job. Airing the Super Bowl helped. So did using the game to launch the second season of the hit singing competition "The Voice."

Fox remains first in the demo this season with a 3.2, and CBS second with a 3.0. CBS continues to average the most total viewers, meanwhile, with 11.7 million, followed by Fox, with 8.9 million. ABC averages 8.4 million, and NBC 7.4 million.

NBC and CBS were the only networks to grow in ratings and total viewers. NBC was up 9 percent in ratings and 5 percent in total viewers, while CBS was up 3 percent in ratings and 1 percent in total viewers. The CW was down 22 percent in ratings and 15 percent in viewers. Fox was down 9 percent in both. ABC was down 4 percent in ratings and 1 percent in viewers. (See chart, right.)

Also read: 'American Idol' Has Lowest-Rated Season Finale Ever

"Sunday Night Football" beat "American Idol" with an 8.0 rating in the demo. "Idol" was expected to finish the season with a 6.1 or 6.2, though the final number is still being calculated. The show wrapped its season Wednesday with a season finale episode that had a 6.4 rating.

NBC expects "The Voice" to come in very close to "Idol." It averaged a 6.1 rating this season, thanks in part to its post-Super Bowl premiere. "The Voice" led "Idol" in the ratings for much of this season, but "Idol" then surpassed it. We won't know which singing show came out on top until the final "Idol" numbers are in.

TheWrap predicted at the start of the season that this could be the one in which NBC broke into third place, even without new breakout hits.