Fall 2020 was unlike any start of a broadcast season, according to Deadline. With the coronavirus pandemic grounding production for months, ABC, NBC and CBS’ first 2020-21 scripted originals started rolling out a month into the season, while Fox and the CW opted for fall lineups consisting largely of shows already in the can or acquisitions, except for Fox’s sports programming and a new season of The Masked Singer and the final episodes of the CW’s Supernatural.
In a season that already carries an asterisk because of the pandemic, Fox topped the fall ratings in adults 18-49 (1.4 rating) on the strength of Thursday Night Football and The Masked Singer, while NBC, paced by Sunday Night Football and This Is Us, was the most watched network (6.11 million), according to most current season-to-date rating information from Nielsen
Excluding sports and breaking news, ABC, which does not have NFL football on the fall schedule, ranked as the No. 1 network with entertainment programming (1.0 rating) for the first time in 5 years among adults 18-49 – since the 2015-2016 season — and as the top entertainment network in total viewers (5.1 million) for the first time in 20 years – since the 2000-2001 season, at the height of the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? craze.
All networks were down from fall 2019; ABC’s declines were single-digit in both 19-49 and total viewers; all other broadcasters were off by double digits.
Despite ratings declines, football still dominated fall ratings in 18-49 and total viewers, with NBC’s Sunday Night Football and Fox’s Thursday Night Football ranking as No. 1 and No.2, respectively.
CBS had a strong showing on the list of most watched non-sports fall programs with venerable drama NCIS (12.9 million) at No. 1; 60 Minutes (11.9 million), buoyed by high-profile election-related telecasts and football lead-ins, at No. 2; and FBI (11.0 million) at No. 4. NBC’s This Is Us (11.1 million) took the No. 3 spot.
Meanwhile, Deadline reports the major news networks are touting big ratings gains in 2020, after the coronavirus crisis and the presidential election drove viewers in record numbers to their lineups.
Fox News will finish the year again at top of the news channels in primetime, with an average of 3.6 million viewers, up 45% from the same period the previous year. MSNBC averaged 2.2 million, a boost of 24%. CNN saw an even greater increase, as it was up 85% to average 1.8 million.