Season in and season out, the Super Bowl is the most-watched broadcast across all of television for the calendar year. So when the New England Patriots or the Philadelphia Eagles raise the Lombardi Trophy this weekend, NBC Sports will be celebrating right alongside the winning 53-man roster. Immediately after that, it will be the “This Is Us” turn to pop some champagne while dreaming of ostentatious Nielsen numbers.
The critically acclaimed drama returns on Sunday night in the highly coveted post-Super Bowl time slot. The result is guaranteed to hand “This Is Us” its most-watched episode ever — likely by a landslide — though it remains to be seen just how well it will do.
NBC won’t make predictions because a) that would be unbecoming and b) they really don’t know. A lousy blowout won’t help, and overtime — while it would be amazing for holding viewership late — could really push the start time too far towards (or possibly past) 11 p.m. ET.
Either way, the game and the subsequent family drama will be a hit, though it likely won’t even sniff the most-watched post-Super Bowl program of all time, which also happened to be on NBC — just 19 years ago.
On Jan. 28, 1996, “Friends” scored a monstrous 52.9 million viewers after the big game; hauling in a 28.2 rating in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic. That dwarfs the second-place finisher, CBS’s “Survivor” from 2001, which earned 45.4 million viewers and a 21.8 rating. Those two are the only shows since 1988 (from which reliable records are readily available) to best the massive 40-million-plus viewer mark or a gaudy 20-plus rating.
In third place is 2010’s “Undercover Boss,” besting 2006’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and 2012’s “The Voice” in total viewers, but not in the key demo rating.
At the bottom of the pile is 2003’s “Alias,” which got 17.4 million total viewers and an 8.2 demo rating. Up one spot is last year’s “24: Legacy,” which had more total viewers (17.6 million) but the lowest demo rating on our list (6.1).
Rounding out the Bottom 5 are “The Late Show” (2016), “Elementary” (2013) and “Malcolm in the Middle” (2002).
See TheWrap‘s list of the 30 Most and Least Watched Post-Super Bowl TV Shows: