TV Rankings 2015-2016 Ratings

Sunday Night Football, Empire Top Ratings for 2015-16 Season; Limitless Among Highest-Rated Axed Shows

NBC’s Sunday Night Football and Fox’s Empire placed No. 1 and No. 2 for the 2015-16 TV season — just as they did last year — this time with average ratings of 7.5 and 6.4 in the coveted 18-49 demo, respectively.

For the season, CBS (which hosted the Super Bowl) led all broadcasters in both the demo (averaging a 2.3) and in total viewers (averaging 10.9 million). NBC placed second with an average 2.1 rating and 8.1 million viewers. (Rounding out the Big 5, Fox averaged 1.9 and 5.7 million, ABC did 1.8 and 6.8 million, and The CW averaged 0.8 and 2 million.)

In the demo, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory — averaging a 5.8 rating this season, including any available Live+7 DVR playback data — easily led the comedy pack (while slipping 11 percent year over year). On the drama side, Fox’s The X-Files (4.8) and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (3.6) placed a distant second and third behind Empire.

Of the Top 20 non-sports entertainment programs (including two ties), ABC led with seven, followed by CBS’ six. NBC had five, Fox four.

In total viewers, NCIS (20.2 mil) and Big Bang (20.4 mil) repeated as the season’s most watched drama and comedy. All told, CBS had 11 of the Top 20 most watched entertainment programs; NBC had four.

Here are my hand-curated rankings for the broadcast networks’ assorted offerings; last season’s can be found hereHit Comments to share what surprises, delights or depresses you.

TOP RETURNING COMEDY | 18-49 DEMO
1 | The Big Bang Theory, CBS (5.8 rating, including any available Live+7 DVR playback)
2 | Modern Family, ABC (3.4)
3 | The Goldbergs, ABC (2.5)
4 | black-ish, ABC (2.4)
5 | 2 Broke Girls, CBS (2.3)
In Total Viewers | The Big Bang Theory (20.4 million)

TOP NEW COMEDY | 18-49 DEMO
1 | Life in Pieces, CBS (2.7, including any available Live+7 DVR playback)
2 | Superstore, NBC (2.1)
3 | Angel From Hell, CBS (1.9; cancelled)
4 | The Muppets, ABC (1.9, cancelled)
5 | Dr. Ken, ABC (1.4)
In Total Viewers | Life in Pieces (10.5 million)

TOP RETURNING DRAMA | 18-49 DEMO
1 | Empire, FOX (6.4, including any available Live+7 DVR playback)
2 | The X-Files, FOX (4.8)
3 | Grey’s Anatomy, ABC (3.6)
4 | How to Get Away With Murder, ABC (3.5)
5 | Scandal, ABC (3.4)
In Total Viewers | NCIS (20.2 million)

TOP NEW DRAMA | 18-49 DEMO
1 | Blindspot, NBC (3.1, including any available Live+7 DVR playback)
2 | Quantico, ABC (2.6)
3 | Lucifer, FOX (2.4)
4 | Supergirl, CBS (2.4; moving to The CW)
5 | Chicago Med, NBC (2.3)
5 | Shades of Blue, NBC (2.3)
In Total Viewers | Blindspot (10.8 million)

TOP REALITY SHOW | 18-49 DEMO
1 | The Voice (Monday), NBC (3.4, including any available Live+7 DVR playback)
2 | The Voice (Tuesday), NBC (3.1)
3 | American Idol (Wednesday), FOX (3.0)
4 | The Bachelor, ABC (3.0)
5 | American Idol (Thursday), FOX (2.8)
5 | Survivor, CBS (2.8)
In Total Viewers | Dancing With the Stars, ABC (13.4 million)

TOP-RATED CANCELLED SHOWS | 18-49 DEMO
1 | Limitless, CBS (2.2, including any available Live+7 DVR playback)
2 | Heroes Reborn, NBC (2.2)
3 | Mike & Molly, CBS (2.0)
4 | Angel From Hell, CBS (1.9)
5 | The Muppets, ABC (1.9)
In Total Viewers | Limitless, CBS (9.8 million)

LOWEST-RATED RENEWED SHOWS (SCRIPTED) | 18-49 DEMO
1 | The Originals, The CW (0.6, including any available Live+7 DVR playback)
2 | Jane the Virgin, The CW (0.6)
3 | Reign, The CW (0.5)
In Total Viewers | Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (1.03 million)

TOP 10 OVERALL BY DEMO
NBC Sunday Night Football, NBC (7.5, +3% year over year)
Empire, FOX (6.4, -10%)
The Big Bang Theory, CBS (5.8, -11%)
Thursday Night Football, CBS/NFL (5.7, -3%)
The X-Files, FOX (4.8, NA)
The OT, FOX (4.4, -4%)
Grey’s Anatomy, ABC (3.6, -8%)
How to Get Away With Murder, ABC (3.5, -30%)
Modern Family, ABC (3.4, -37%)
Scandal, ABC (3.4, -24%)

TOP 10 OVERALL BY TOTAL VIEWERS
Sunday Night Football, NBC (20.8 million, +3% year over year)
The Big Bang Theory, CBS (21.3 million, -4%)
NCIS, CBS (21.4 million, -6%)
Thursday Night Football, CBS/NFL (17.1 million, NC)
Empire, FOX (17.3 million, -9%)
NCIS: New Orleans, CBS (14.8 million, -20%)
The X-Files, FOX (13.6 million, NA)
Dancing With the Stars, ABC (13.4 million, -11%)
The Voice (Monday), NBC (13.3 million)
Blue Bloods, CBS (13.1 million, -13%)

Want scoop on any of the above shows? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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86 Comments
  1. RedReddington says:

    Go X-Files! I really hope we get more episodes next year.

    • Dizzle says:

      With those numbers they’d be ridiculous not to bring it back again. But from comments the producers and network have made its unlikely to be until the TV season after next (so on air for 2018).

      • TraciWallacexo says:

        Let’s be honest though. Only the 1st and last episodes of X-Files were good. Many watched because they were fans of the old show.

      • w0nk042 says:

        I am a huge X-Files fan, loved the original series (as it tapped into everything my imagination was coming up with, at that age), but this “new” series was ok, but something just didn’t feel right with it. I couldn’t tell you what it was, just that it didn’t seem to quite click.

  2. ninamags says:

    Wow, X-Files did killer numbers!!!

    Fantastic.

  3. jj says:

    Wow. So basically everything is dow in demo and total viewers compared to last year

    • peterwdawson says:

      Pretty much. Nothing flat out new really caught fire this year (I’m not counting X-Files because it was an established property and was technically just a long-delayed 10th season), and when you factor in general audience decay, the ever-increasing markets for premium cable, streaming (including Netflix) and more, there’s been a wide overall decline in total viewership for pretty much every network systemically over the last 10 years. Data measuring has also become increasingly unreliable.

    • TraciWallacexo says:

      It’s been a downward turn each year and will continue. I don’t know many people who watch live television anymore other than sports. Cord cutting, binge watching, ad free watching, etc. are becoming more and more of the norm for the younger generation.

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

        Crazy kids today, with their newfangled gizmos!

        • MMD says:

          Matt, under no circumstances,except in my head, would I consider myself a kid but I watch nothing with commercials. I either watch on demand, dvr or stream and I’m certainly not using smaller and smaller gizmos.(that I really DON’T UNDERSTAND) I really enjoy binge watching because it is like reading a chapter in a book and then putting the book down.

  4. peterwdawson says:

    Figures. If Limitless were on any other network it would have probably been renewed.

    Nice to see the X-Files revival was worth it viewership wise. Wasn’t too terribly impressed with the revival but Mulder and Scully versus the Were-Monster was probably one of the best episodes of television just straight up this year, so there’s that.

    • Jimpy says:

      I think CBS has extremely high expectations for it’s tuesday night after the NCISes. Intelligence, Person of Interest and Limitless have all failed in CBS’s Tuesday night death spot. They can’t all be The Good Wife. If I were MIchael Weatherly I’d be worried about being sandwiched between NCIS and NCIS-NO, all it’s gonna do is remind people that you aren’t DiNozzo anymore.

      • peterwdawson says:

        It’s true, CBS does do some weird sandwiching. Put a non NCIS show between two NCIS shows, that tends to hurt the odd man out, and I think three times now they’ve put a non female oriented comedy between two female oriented comedies, once again hurting the odd man.

      • Larc says:

        I hope Weatherly’s new show turns out to be better than it sounds. If it’s not, NCIS: NO may get hurt due to its slot. If viewers leave CBS after NCIS, will they go back to it at 10?

        • KLS says:

          Probably not. If Bull tanks, and it think people will give it 3 or 4 episodes, people will switch off to NBC and stay there.

        • Ro says:

          The UpFront trailer looked interesting, but his character reminded me of DiNozzo with glasses.

        • John NYC says:

          Why not? It’s not like changing the channel is all that challenging. OTOH I gave up on NOLA about halfway through this season.

  5. SG says:

    With those numbers ABC will never end Grey’s Anatomy.

  6. Lauren says:

    It’s cazy that CBS can afford to eliminate a show with almost 10 million viewers. Almost seems rude of them.

    • Night Owl says:

      Although I don’t watch Limitless, you would think that 9.8 million w/ 2.2 demo would be enough to renew it. That is one cancellation that just doesn’t make sense. This coming from someone who doesn’t watch the show.

      • Sherry says:

        And the fact that another network (NBC) doesn’t want to grab up those 9.8 million just leaves me shaking my head. I do (did) watch Limitless – awesome show, unlimited capabilities of where to take it. I think CBS made the wrong call on this one, and even more so, the others not grabbing it up…an even bigger bad call! The potential of where they could go and what they could do with Limitless..is or would have been limitless.

  7. Erin B says:

    I had no idea that “Blue Bloods” had that many viewers.

  8. TraciWallacexo says:

    CBS is the top network in total viewers, yet they barely register in the 18-49 Demo. NCIS not even in top 5 in 18-49 demo but has 20mill viewers. Those senior citizens watch live television. Limitless would have been renewed on any other network. But like POI it does not fit in their Senior Citizen wheelhouse. How long before they cancel Scorpion? Next year live ratings will be down even more. Younger people binge watch, watch on phones/tablets, unless it’s sports/award shows.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Yet CBS won the season in the demo — and even if you subtract all football.

    • grazelled says:

      I think that with TBBT CBS gets a high overall demo number.
      Too bad that by the time today’s preferred demo will age out they’ll have a different method of measuring viewers…maybe

    • Jax&Juice's Girl says:

      Hell no CBS better not think canceling Scorpion I love that show! Besides why F… do they have to move NCIS:LA to Sundays around the same time as OUAT on ABC?! At least moving Scorpion at 10 is alright now I could see Lucifer S2 around 9.

  9. Big Mike says:

    Let me get this straight. Blindspot, at 10.8 million viewers, is a hit and gets renewed mid-season. Limitless, at 9.8 million, deserves to get cancelled. Yup, makes total sense.

    • grazelled says:

      Different network. Let’s face if if Limitless had been on any other network it would’ve been renewed with those numbers especially if it was network owned and produced.

    • S says:

      Shows aren’t comparable across networks. You have to look at Limitless compared to performance of CBS’s other shows.

    • herman1959 says:

      The demos were nowhere near comparable, you have to look at both numbers. Come on Big Mike, you should know that.

      • Big Mike says:

        Knowing something isn’t the same as thinking it’s stupid.

        • Boiler says:

          Thanks Big Mike. Every time I complain about the demo as it is now being stupid I get an “education”. I know what they do but, yea, it is stupid

  10. S says:

    How about lowest-rated renewed shows excluding The CW? The CW’s standards/expectations are so much lower, it isn’t comparable with the other networks.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Yeah, I tried that one year, but it’s a hot mess. You get into myriad grey areas like, “The Simpsons when it airs at 7:00,” and “Fresh Off the Boat when it airs at 8:00″…. It’s an imperfect category, but still worth including as is.

  11. Max says:

    How much more do they get for the 18-49 demo vs total viewers?

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Madison Avenue only looks at the demo when writing checks. I include total viewers in all my reporting simply because I like to, plus it speaks to overall popularity.

      • dan says:

        And the networks still advertise based on total viewers. CBS has been calling itself America’s “most watched network” for years even when they haven’t been #1 in the demo.

      • MMD says:

        And I’m so glad that you do. I don’t understand why Madison Ave doesn’t realize that baby boomers and younger are the ones with disposable incomes who actually purchase and contrary to the current mindset, we will purchase new and better products. Millennials have student loans, massive credit card debt and are lucky to even get a job and it’s their parents who are paying for their phones and other gadgets so they can watch anything!

        Until networks start paying attention to everyone, more and more people are leaving network shows. As it is, I watch very little network and lean more towards cable, British, Canadian, Aussie. I don’t care what country it comes from as long as it’s good and not reality or Kardashian.

  12. Alan Dvorkis says:

    It is sick that Limitless has been cancelled. Well received, well acted, enjoyed by many different types. Very sad.

    • PatriciaLee says:

      IMHO, they blew it when they made Sands a villain. Maybe, he had another fan, but in high places. I was getting bummed about that…then poof.

  13. JO says:

    I am still in disbelief that they axed Limitless. Jake McDorman was so much fun to watch in that series. The show had so much potential. They really need to find a new show for him as he is very entertaining and likeable in so many ways.

  14. xyz says:

    Why are my comments disappearing? Also, Limitless was the one new show I loved this past year.

    I think the problem is shows that earnings are getting splited between CBS and the production company. Person of Interest is like that. So it isn’t the ratings but the return that gets them cut. Next season, I will try to avoid those types of shows……….

  15. krista says:

    Why isn’t Supernatural on this list….

  16. Allie says:

    I’ll miss Limitless. It bugs me when good shows are cancelled. I recall shows like Firefly and CHuck that were so good but got cancelled. How I miss them. I hope to see Jake McDornan show up on a new show.

    • w0nk042 says:

      Chuck should of ended a season sooner, but it’s good they wrapped it up when they did.
      I’m not going to talk about “The other one”. Too soon,too soon. :D ;)

  17. Beckstle says:

    If the CW could take Limitless along with Supergirl ABC would have to seriously become concerned about slipping to dead last. Both those shows have a built-in audience. The Limitless viewers would follow the show. If Supergirl & Limitless held their numbers that would be a huge inflowing of new viewers to the network….

    • KLS says:

      I never watch the CW, but I would follow Limitless there. It should have been on after Scorpion, but too late now.

    • Ro says:

      If I understand correctly, about 25% of the country will be able to see The CW. I was surprised to hear this…

  18. preta4 says:

    No mention of Sleepy Hollow here, does that mean Fox has renewed it for a 4th Season, without Beharie (BIG MISTAKE there) and maybe a new love interest for Mison (Ichabod Crane)??

  19. dkleener says:

    Still bummed about Limitless.

  20. Pat says:

    I am still dumbfounded, by CBS pulling Limitless. Putting Michael Weatherly’s new show in between the NCIS line up on Tuesday night will not make me want to watch it. He his playing a younger version of Dr Phil and it just so happens that I do not like this man. I really like Michael but I cannot believe he would take this part. CBS must have flashed some heavy duty money at him. I just hope the NCIS NO is not hurt by this.

  21. Ana says:

    So, Limitless is really cancelled? Won’t any other network take it up?
    So disappointing when such a smart, quality show doesn’t get to stay and so much mindless stuff survives.

  22. W0NK042 says:

    Damn-It CBS. Limitless was great fun. Old-school Saturday afternoon telly, that the family could watch. :'(

  23. J. Norman says:

    I’m not going to say that Angel from Hell was great, but it was marginally good and would not have been cancelled on any network other than CBS

  24. Gerald says:

    Limitless 9.8 million and it got cancelled what the heck????
    Also Muppets really could have used a new timeslot. Dr Ken got renewed with less ratings because it was on a different night.
    And Nice to see How To Get Away With Murder in the top 10s. I love the show, but didn’t think the ratings were that high this year.

  25. McCapwell says:

    Sad that ABC chooses Dr. Ken over The Muppets.

    • w0nk042 says:

      What is even sadder, is that The Muppets were brought back as that joy/feeling-less travesty of a show.

  26. John NYC says:

    Well now for NCIS, CBS (21.4 million, -6%) it looks like predictions if its demise, endlessly repeated STILL remain inaccurate.

    Remarkable.

    Go team Gibbs.

  27. Mandy says:

    Empire is still posting crazy numbers – wow. For some reason I thought the show wasn’t doing as amazingly well as last season… shows what I know. Blindspot though…love that show and sooo happy it’s done so well in it’s rookie season.

    • Terry says:

      Empire is doing amazingly well but just not as well as it did last year, Besides, the ratings took a different trajectory this season.

  28. iakovos says:

    LIMITLESS was robbed. Poised to be a new outlet for those who like CASTLE, I think. Charming leading man working against grain. CBS could have had something here with a little tinkering. Would prefer this over another snorer of a HAWAII FIVE-O season or more depraved CRIMINAL MINDS (here and abroad) next season.

  29. Nileppez Online says:

    Limitless was cancelled?! I completely give up on TV altogether. That makes absolutely no sense. That was the one network show that I watched and it was creative, original and all together an excellent show. That really sucks!

  30. Jamey says:

    Limitless makes no sense but then I am not a CBS brass fan, so who knows. I hope they haven’t been affected by the NFL numbers.

  31. NileppezOnline says:

    … I just spoke with, The Girl That Knows Things” and she doesn’t even know why CBS cancelled, “Limitless.”

  32. erica says:

    I really can’t believe they cancelled Limitless. Am really innovative show

  33. James Barker says:

    What the f. Limitless cancelled??? Com on CBS get your head out. The only dramatic humor show on TV and you cancel. Don’t mind changing NW’s as near as much

  34. Bob says:

    I don’t get why football is being ranked on lists when it’s not even a tv show.

  35. thatsahd says:

    Limitless shouldn’t have been cancelled. Please bring it back, somebody!