TV viewers choose Simpson over Madoff in crime stories

NEW YORK, N.Y. – In a television competition between notorious criminals, O.J. Simpson topped Bernard Madoff.

The first part of FX’s star-studded miniseries on the former football star’s murder case and trial became the most-watched scripted series premiere in the network’s history, the Nielsen company said.

The “American Crime Story” opener, which stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson and John Travolta as attorney Robert Shapiro, was seen by 12 million people within three days of its premiere. More people watched it either on a time-delayed basis or in one of its two reruns than in its premiere time slot last Tuesday.

It beat “The Shield,” which was FX’s previous record-setter for an original series.

ABC’s two-part movie on Madoff, which starred Richard Dreyfuss as the swindler, had more viewers watching when it originally aired than the Simpson premiere, but far fewer who caught it later. With time-delayed viewing within three days added in, the first part of the Madoff movie had 8.3 million viewers with the second part getting 7.9 million, Nielsen said.

Perhaps because the crime hit home, viewers of the Madoff movie were richer than those for a typical TV show. Among people who make more than $100,000 a year, the movie’s viewership beat the average by 25 per cent, and for those making more than $200,000, it was up 33 per cent, Nielsen said.

Typically the year’s most-watched event, the Super Bowl had just under 111.9 million viewers for CBS. The audience was down from the last two games but it still represented the third most-watched event in U.S. television history.

Shortly after NBC signed a new deal with prolific producer Dick Wolf, he proved his worth. Four of Wolf’s dramas — “Chicago Fire,” Chicago Med,” Chicago P.D.” and “Law & Order: SVU” — landed among Nielsen’s top 20 shows for the week.

CBS averaged 25.2 million viewers in prime time during the week, primarily because of the Super Bowl. ABC averaged 6 million viewers, NBC had 4.5 million, Fox had 4.2 million, Univision had 1.74 million, the CW had 1.73 million, ION Television had 1.3 million and Telemundo had 1.25 million.

Fox News Channel was the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 2.19 million viewers in prime time. USA had 1.6 million, HGTV had 1.56 million and the Disney Channel and ESPN tied with 1.39 million.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.3 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 9.2 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 7.7 million viewers.

For the week of Feb. 1-7, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: Super Bowl: Carolina vs. Denver, CBS, 111.86 million; “Super Bowl Post-Game” (Sunday, 10:22 p.m.), CBS, 101.93 million; “Super Bowl Post-Game” (Sunday, 10:29 p.m.), CBS, 70.01 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 15.29 million; Republican Presidential Debate, ABC, 13.34 million; “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials,” CBS, 11.45 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 9.18 million; “Life in Pieces,” CBS, 9.09 million; “American Idol” (Thursday), Fox, 8.94 million; “The X-Files,” Fox, 8.37 million.


ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.