President Barack Obama announces the death of Osama Bin Laden on Sunday (May 1) night.
Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Between 10:15 and 10:30 p.m. ET (7:15 and 7:30 PST, obviously) the TV networks all cut away from their normal Sunday broadcasts for President Obama's announcement regarding the killing of Osama Bin Laden. That announcement and subsequent coverage continued through at least 9 p.m. PST on most networks.
As a result, these Sunday ratings are about as meaningless as meaningless could be. They probably do reflect which networks people were watching in any given hour, but they barely give any indication of what they were watching at those times.
With those caveats in mind, ABC won the night among adults 18-49, averaging a 2.5 rating in the key demographic, nipping the 2.4 rating for NBC. FOX and CBS followed with 2.1 ratings.
Overall, though, CBS averaged an estimated 9.54 million viewers and a 5.8 rating/9 share, with ABC's 5.3/8 and 8.68 million viewers close behind. NBC was third with a 4.5/7 and 7.42 million viewers, beating FOX's 2.6/4 and 4.62 million.
[One last reminder: These numbers are beyond inexact, at least for the the programs they refer to. They're probably fairly accurate for the hours themselves, for whatever that's worth.]
7 p.m. - CBS won the 7 p.m. hour overall with 10.64 million viewers for "60 Minutes." ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" averaged 7.65 million viewers and a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49, which won the hour. NBC's "Dateline" averaged 5.46 million viewers for third, beating the 3.46 million viewers for FOX's two repeats of "Family Guy."
8 p.m. - Here's where things get really messed up. CBS won the 8 p.m. hour with "The Amazing Race" and Bin Laden coverage, which averaged 9.72 million viewers and a 2.5 demo rating, good for second. ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" averaged 9.58 million viewers and won the hour with a 2.7 demo rating. NBC was third with the 6.04 million viewers and 2.0 demo rating for the finale of "America's Next Great Restaurant." ABC and NBC got the biggest boosts from not airing their scheduled programs in this slot, while CBS' numbers were pretty close to normal. FOX aired a new "Simpsons" and a "Cleveland Show" repeat and finished fourth with 5.48 million viewers.
9 p.m. - ABC won the 9 p.m. hour, with 10.12 million viewers and a 3.0 demo rating for "Desperate Housewives," though ABC was the only one of the Big Four to continue Bin Laden coverage through the 9 p.m. hour on the West Coast. CBS was second with 8.795 million viewers for "Undercover Boss" on the East Coast and "The Amazing Race" on the West Coast. NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" averaged 8.54 million viewers and a 3.0 demo rating, airing as scheduled for this hour on both coasts. FOX was fourth with 4.92 million viewers for repeats of "Family Guy" and "American Dad."
10 p.m. - NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" and Bin Laden coverage won the 10 p.m. hour with 9.74 million viewers and a 3.5 demo rating. CBS was second with 9.005 million viewers, beating the 7.36 million viewers for ABC.
All ratings information comes from preliminary Fast National Nielsen data, which includes live and same-day DVR viewing. All numbers are subject to change, particularly in the case of live events.