Ever wonder why networks shell out billions for the NFL? Here's why: the final ratings for the 2013-14 television season are in, and the runaway champion for top show is NBC's "Sunday Night Football."
"Sunday Night Football" averaged 21.5 million viewers. The runner-up, "Big Bang Theory," averaged 19.9 million viewers. "NCIS," "NCIS: Los Angeles," and "Dancing With The Stars" rounded out the top five. The next-highest sports show on network television was ABC's "Saturday Night Football," with 5.6 million viewers.
"Sunday Night Football" won pretty much every major demographic, male and female, among viewers aged 18 to 54. According to NBC, 12 games topped 20 million viewers, matching the Sochi Games for most programs with more than 20 million tuned in.
The timeslot benefited from some fine games, including San Francisco-Seattle in Week 2, Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis, Brady-Manning XIV, and a final-week matchup between Philadelphia and Dallas with the NFC East on the line.
This kind of ratings domination is exactly why networks bid so highly for sports events. Games can't be DVR'd for later; live TV is unimpeachable, and that's why advertisers love that sweet, sweet pipeline into viewers' eyes. Expect CBS's "Thursday Night Football" to post similarly strong numbers later this season.