NBC Wins Premiere Week by Largest Margin in Ratings History

On a percentage basis, at least — and the same can be said about its total-viewer victory

NBC 2021 premiere week ratings win

NBC didn’t just win Fall TV Premiere Week (Sept. 20-26, 2021) in ratings and in total viewers — it obliterated the competition.

With a 57% advantage in the key demo (adults 18-49) ratings over No. 2 and a 49% margin in total viewers, NBC just set a new record for the widest gaps between any first and any second place broadcast network in measurement history. (Here, 1988 is excluded due to the Winter Olympics.)

All numbers in this story come from Nielsen’s Live + Same Day numbers. See the Premiere Week 2021 primetime averages for the so-called Big 4 broadcast networks below.

Adults 18-49:
NBC: 1.3
Fox: 0.8
ABC: 0.6
CBS: 0.6

Total Viewers:
NBC: 6.6 million
CBS: 4.4 million
Fox: 3.5 million
ABC: 3.0 million

“This is an incredible coup, particularly on the heels of NBC’s recent victory in the 52-week season, and we are excited to continue this momentum as we look toward holiday programming, midseason and beyond,” NBCUniversal Chairman Frances Berwick and its television and streaming entertainment content chairman, Susan Rovner, said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “With these accolades coming almost exactly a year after the company’s restructure, these wins are a testament to the hard work, commitment and ingenuity of the entire entertainment team as well as all of our creative partners.”

Don’t make the mistake of hanging all of NBC’s claim on “Sunday Night Football,” which is TV’s top show. NBC would still win Premiere Week 2021 in viewers and tie Fox in the key demo excluding sports — the first time that’s happened in 20 years. The total-viewer claim is what normally alludes NBC, which just finished first (or tied for first) in the 18-49 demo in entertainment-only programming for the 10th straight fall premiere week.

(Sports and news programming have almost no DVR viewing, so they appear disproportionately strong in studies of “live” viewing only, like this one.)

NBC had the Top 4 dramas of the week in the main demo: “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Med” and “Law & Order: SVU.” It also enjoyed some not-immaterial help from two Season 21 premiere nights of hit singing competition “The Voice.”

OK, now we can talk about “Sunday Night Football.” The network’s Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers game drew a whopping 5.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 19.7 million total viewers (people 2 and older). Pro football games are good for business, and nailbiters are even better.