Touchdown live TV as sport dominates American screens

Joseph O'Halloran | 12-12-2012

Despite the increasing amounts of alternatives available, sporting and live events dominated in 2012 when it came to attracting US viewers, data from Nielsen has revealed.
According to the latest Nielsen Wire report, the Super Bowl XLVI “set new viewership heights” with 111.3 million viewers, 300,000 more than watched last year’s denouement to the American football season. Indeed, America’s favourite sport took the first eight places in Nielsen’s top ten TV programmes of 2012 based on a single telecast, with Danny Boyle’s masterpiece of an Olympics Opening Ceremony creeping into ninth place, closely followed by the GRAMMY Awards which took around 40 million viewers each.
Football was top scorer again when it came to regularly scheduled programming, with NBC Sunday Night Football claiming 21.3 million viewers, followed by the Wednesday and Thursday episodes of American Idol which attracted 18 million and 16.4 million viewers respectively. The leading non-sport or non-reality show was CBS’s NCIS which generated 13,629 viewers.
Yet even though the data showed just how much life left there is in live TV, Nielsen also revealed the extent to which time-shifting is playing within American viewing habits in 2012 and said that it witnessed a significant lift in programme viewership, most notably with cable programming. Viewers time-shifted more of their viewing than in 2011, as each programme more than doubled its live viewership. Cable shows comprised 90% of 2012’s list and all of the top time-shifted shows were scripted dramas.