A record-setting performance by Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning helped NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” draw its largest audience of the season in a week in which football accounted for seven of the 13 most-watched prime-time television programs.
Denver’s 42-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, which included Manning’s 509th touchdown pass to break the NFL career record formerly held by Brett Favre, averaged 23.79 million viewers, topping all prime-time broadcast and cable programs airing between Oct. 13 and Sunday.
An NBC prime-time NFL game has been the most-watched program for seven consecutive weeks.
Two other elements of NBC’s Sunday NFL coverage also made the week’s top 13. Its nine-minute “Sunday Night Football” kickoff show was second, averaging 17.76 million, and the 26-minute third-segment of “Football Night in America” was 13th, averaging 12.61 million.
The most-watched programs on ABC and Fox were also both football-related, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen on Tuesday.
ABC’s “Saturday Night Football” drew its largest audience since Nov. 24, 2012, as Florida State’s 31-27 victory over Notre Dame averaged 13.25million viewers, finishing 10th for the week.
Fox’s NFL postgame show, “The OT,” averaged 13.78 million viewers to finish eighth for the week. Its 30-minute runover of its afternoon NFL coverage into prime time averaged 29.74 million viewers. The runover is not considered a separate program but is included in the weekly average.
CBS’ “Thursday Night Football” game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets was fifth for the week, averaging 16.09 million. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” game between San Francisco and St. Louis Rams was 12th for the week, averaging 12.71 million viewers.
The order of finish among the four major broadcast networks was the same as it was for each of the previous three weeks of the four-week old season.
CBS finished first, averaging 10.5 million viewers, followed by NBC (8.9 million), ABC (7.93 million) and Fox (4.65 million).
CBS had four of the week’s six most-watched programs, topped by “NCIS,” which averaged 17.26 million viewers, finishing third. The 8 p.m. Monday episode of “The Big Bang Theory” was the most-watched comedy for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 15.32 million viewers to finish sixth.
CBS had each of the three most-watched new series for the third consecutive week — “NCIS: New Orleans,” which averaged 16.14 million viewers, finishing fourth for the week; “Madame Secretary,” which averaged 12.28 million viewers to finish 15th for the week; and “Scorpion, which averaged 11.51 million viewers to finish 16th for the week.
The week’s only premiere on the four major broadcast networks, the NBC comedy “Marry Me,” finished second behind “NCIS: New Orleans” in its 9-9:30 p.m. Tuesday time slot and 38th for the week, averaging 7.54 million viewers — the most for any new comedy during the week.
For the fourth time this season, NBC finished first among viewers ages 18-49, the harder-to-reach group that ABC and Fox also target and advertisers covet.
“Sunday Night Football” was the week’s most-watched programs among the group, averaging 10.44 million viewers; followed by the AMC horror drama “The Walking Dead” (9.8 million); NBC’s nine-minute “Sunday Night Football” kickoff show (7.39 million); CBS’ “Thursday Night Football” (6.81 million); Fox’s “The OT (6.47 million); and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (5.82 million).
“The Walking Dead” was the most-watched cable program for the second consecutive week, averaging 15.14 million viewers. ESPN was the most-watched cable network for the sixth consecutive week, averaging 2.61 million viewers.
The week’s most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program was Wednesday episode of the Univision telenovela “Mi Corazon Es Tuyo,” which averaged 4.24 million viewers, putting it 76th among all prime-time broadcast and cable programs.
As usual, Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network, averaging 2.86 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 1.08 million, followed by UniMas (530,000), Estrella TV (250,000), MundoFox (140,000) and Azteca America (60,000).
The “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” was the most-watched network nightly newscast, averaging 8.78 million viewers, followed by ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” with 8.1 million.
The “CBS Evening News” was third, averaging 6.44 million viewers. Its average did not include Thursday because of NFL coverage.
The live-plus-same day figures are treated with less importance by network executives than in the past because the growing amount of delayed viewing has prompted advertisers to increase acceptance of figures that include delayed viewing.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and its nine-minute “Sunday Night Football” kickoff show; CBS’ “NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Thursday Night Football” and the 8 p.m. Monday episode of “The Big Bang Theory”; AMC’s “The Walking Dead”; Fox’s 30-minute NFL postgame show, “The OT”; the Monday episode of the NBC singing competition “The Voice”; and ABC’s “Saturday Night Football.”