Considering CBS has been television's most-watched network for most of this century, thanks in large part to the massive success of some of its longest-running series. While the all-important age demographic ratings don't always size up to shows from other networks, hits like The Big Bang Theory had big enough viewerships to smooth over such less positive stats. Speaking to the semi-eternal appeal of serialized procedural dramas, Nielsen's latest streaming TV ratings report showed that audiences spent a bonkers amount of time recently watching CBS' NCIS and Criminal Minds recently, as well as ABC's Grey's Anatomy.
Before diving into those numbers directly, let's set up the bar that's being leapt over here. In Nielsen's latest Top 10 report, which measured viewing data for the week of May 17-May 23, the most-watched original streaming series was The Handmaid's Tale, marking a relatively rare win for Hulu. Around 516 million minutes of Handmaid's Tale were streamed that week, with 41 episodes available at the time. (Its shocking finale has since aired.) In second place was Netflix's Who Killed Sara?, with 500 million minutes viewed, and the streaming giant's now-cancelled Jupiter's Legacy rounded out the Top 3 with 405 million minutes. Now guess what? NCIS, Criminal Minds and Grey's Anatomy each blew those numbers out of the water.
Shockingly enough, NCIS' 353-episode library was streamed for around 690 million minutes during that single week in May. That's more than the combined viewing totals for the eighth (Halston), ninth (Shadow and Bone) and tenth (Castlevania) most-watched original streaming series in the same timespan. The CBS crime drama is nearly always the most-watched show on TV in any given year, so it makes sense that it would regularly be among the biggest streaming series out there. But still, to amass nearly 700 million minutes of viewing time during a single week is wild, considering there are only 10,080 minutes in a week.
While NCIS' linear TV stats weren't quite so impressive, as television ratings continue their downward slide from year to year, this season did spark a lot of interest over the possibility of Mark Harmon packing it up and bowing out as Leroy Gibbs. However, he ended up signing on for at least one more year, with the drama being renewed for Season 19, but it's not clear if he'll actually be around in every episode. (The show's recent attempts to find other series leads indicates he won't be, though.)
And then we have Criminal Minds, a crime drama that might still be airing new episodes alongside NCIS had the show not suffered an audience blowback after a behind-the-scenes kerfuffle led to the firing of former star Thomas Gibson. The drama's viewership never quite rose back up to its previous heights, but its streaming success on Netflix indicates that there are still more than enough people out there who thrive on watching Joe Mantegna, Paget Brewster and the rest busting creepy AF unsubs. In that same week in May, Criminal Minds was viewed for a whopping 644 million minutes.
Considering Criminal Minds ended its 15-season run back in February 2020, it's wild to see that many people are still streaming so much of it. And its constant and consistent streaming success is no doubt a big part of why Paramount+ is already developing a revival series that will bring some of the main stars back for a more tied-together plotline. If these Netflix totals are any indication, expect it to be that streaming service's biggest hit yet when it arrives.
Finally, we have ABC's biggest stalwart hit Grey's Anatomy, which kept viewers hooked throughout its latest season by largely sidelining Ellen Pompeo's Meredith with COVID, allowing for a variety of major character returns (including various appearances from Patrick Dempsey's McDreamy). Well, we know that Pompeo is returning for the renewed Season 18, despite that being up in the air for a while, and the medical drama's Netflix success should keep the cast and crew smiling throughout the summer hiatus.
Grey's Anatomy racked up 575 million minutes of viewing from May 17-May 23, and even that number is bigger than the weekly total for The Handmaid's Tale. I guess it's similar to how Law & Order: SVU reruns on cable will sometimes draw in bigger audiences than new episodes on network TV. But even though it happens often enough, it's still pretty mind-boggling.
Considering how successful and buzzworthy new series from Netflix, HBO Max and other services are these days, it can be easy to forget just how popular broadcast TV dramas are. Well, at least for anyone not measuring those totals for NCIS, Criminal Minds and Grey's Anatomy.