Sunday, February 18, 2018
  • Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016
"60 Minutes" Lead-In Helps CBS Lead Nielsen Race For Debate Coverage
New York Giants' Odell Beckham catches a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, in Green Bay, Wis. This Sunday Night Football game on NBC topped the week's Nielsen ratings. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
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Even when changing a channel takes only the flick of a finger, CBS News learned there are still benefits for a television network from people who don’t bother to reach for the remote.

CBS had more viewers than any other network for its coverage of Sunday’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and for the post-event analysis. That’s good for a news division that generally runs third among three competitors for its daily morning and evening news shows.

The Nielsen company’s ratings report explains how CBS got the boost.

The network attracted 12.4 million people for “60 Minutes,” which aired directly ahead of the debate. Meanwhile, ABC had only 4.1 million people for the drama “Once Upon a Time” in the same time slot. Fox’s rerun of a “Son of Zorn” cartoon just ahead of the debate had 2.1 million viewers.

With that head start, an estimated 16.5 million people saw the debate on CBS - valuable exposure for its news team. ABC had 11.5 million - actually not bad with so few people watching ahead of time - and Fox had 5.6 million, Nielsen said.

NBC didn’t air the debate, instead sticking with its NFL game that night between Green Bay and the N.Y. Giants, which had 16.6 million viewers.

CBS had another comfortable victory in the prime-time ratings, averaging 9.6 million viewers last week. NBC had 7.3 million viewers, ABC had 6.1 million, Fox had 3.4 million, Telemundo had 1.82 million, Univision had 1.75 million, the CW had 1.3 million and ION Television had 1.1 million.

ESPN was the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 3.79 viewers in prime time last week. Fox News Channel had 3.47 million, CNN had 2.76 million, TBS had 2.33 million and MSNBC had 2.01 million.

The evening news competition was a virtual tie: ABC’s “World News Tonight” averaged 8,449,000 viewers last week and NBC’s “Nightly News” had 8,446,000. The “CBS Evening News” had 6.5 million viewers.

Debate coverage is not included in the rankings because it is commercial-free.

Below are primetime viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen for Oct. 3-9. Listings include the week’s ranking and viewership.

1. NFL Football: N.Y. Giants at Green Bay, NBC, 16.62 million.

2. “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,” NBC, 14.81 million.

3. “NCIS,” CBS, 14.44 million.

4. “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 14.32 million.

5. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 12.4 million.

6. NFL Football: Arizona at San Francisco, CBS, 12.07 million.

7. “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 11.78 million.

8. “Debate Analysis,” CBS, 10.94 million.

9. “Football Night in America,” NBC, 10.78 million.

10. “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 10.73 million.

11. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 9.83 million.

12. “Hawaii Five-0,” CBS, 9.63 million.

13. “Kevin Can Wait,” CBS, 9.62 million.

14. NFL Football: N.Y. Giants at Minnesota, ESPN, 9.5 million.

15. “Empire,” Fox, 9.25 million.

16. “Dancing With the Stars: The Results,” ABC, 9.12 million.

17. “Survivor,” CBS, 8.52 million.

18. “Scorpion,” CBS,, 8.35 million.

19: “Debate Analysis,” ABC, 8.2 million.

20. “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 8.08 million.