NBC Football Carries Network to New-Season Ratings

NBC claimed the first-week victory in audience ratings in the age group sought by advertisers for the new TV season, carried by “Sunday Night Football” and “The Voice,” the network’s singing competition.

NBC, owned by Comcast Corp., averaged about 3.9 million viewers a night in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic, the network said today in a statement, up 7.1 percent from a year earlier. Perennial leader CBS Corp. commanded total viewers at 10.4 million, according to Nielsen data.

The challenge for NBC is to keep viewers as the TV season wears on. “Sunday Night Football,” the most watched weekly broadcast, carried the network to ratings victories last year, too. After football ended, NBC struggled and closed the season in May in fourth place in total viewers and third in the younger demographic group, Nielsen data show.

Steve Burke, NBCUniversal’s chief executive officer, estimated in September that the network earns $500 million to $1 billion less a year than its major competitors.

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC finished second in the 18-49 age group in the week ended Sept. 29, with its audience up 2.1 percent from a year earlier. The network credited the new series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” along with the returning comedy “Modern Family.” CBS was third in 18-49, down 4.4 percent from a year earlier. Fox, part of 21st Century Fox Inc., was fourth, with a drop of 16 percent.

CBS’s win in total viewers was paced by “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS,” which attracted more than 20 million viewers each. NBC was second in total audience, averaging 9.71 million viewers a night for the week, representing an increase of 19 percent. That was followed by ABC at 7.99 million and Fox at 6.01 million

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