In a television rarity, the most popular show during the past week was on a cable channel and not a broadcast one.
MTV's annual Video Music Awards on Sunday were seen by 12.44 million people, the Nielsen Co. said. That's MTV's biggest audience since at least 1993, the extent to which its viewership records stretch, and likely in the network's history.
Meanwhile, broadcast's most-watched show last week, NBC's "America's Got Talent," logged just under 12 million viewers on Tuesday.
The feat shows how the distinction between broadcast and cable has grown meaningless for many viewers, particularly younger ones. It's not clear how often a cable telecast has beaten anything broadcast has done during a week; Nielsen records show it hasn't happened during the past two years. In 2007, the Disney Channel premiere of "High School Musical 2" brought more than 17 million viewers to the screen and finished on top during its opening week.
It didn't hurt that broadcast was airing mostly reruns and reality shows during the late-summer week.
MTV took advantage of the VMA interest to run a special episode of "Jersey Shore" on Sunday, reaching more than 8 million viewers. Its new scripted comedy "I Just Want My Pants Back" had 5.1 million viewers. Except for four shows on CBS, that was more than any other sitcom on broadcast TV.
CBS was the most popular broadcast network, averaging 6.4 million viewers (4.0 rating, 7 share). NBC had 5.5 million (3.4, 6), ABC had 5 million (3.1, 5), Fox had 3.1 million (1.8, 3), ION Television had 1.1 million (0.8, 1) and the CW had 780,000 (0.5, 1).
Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.7 million viewer average in prime time (1.9, 3). Telemundo had 1.1 million (0.6. 1), TeleFutura had 430,000 (0.2, 0), Azteca had 210,000 and Estrella had 180,000 (both 0.1, 0).
During a busy news week with the Libyan fighting, East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene, NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.8 million viewers (5.7, 12). ABC's "World News" was second with 7.7 million (5.2, 10) and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.1 million viewers (4.1, 8).
A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week of Aug. 22-28, the top 10 broadcast shows, their networks and viewerships: "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 11.99 million; "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday), NBC, 11.12 million; "NCIS," CBS, 9.43 million; NFL Exhibition Football: San Diego vs. Oakland, NBC, 9.27 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 8.39 million; "Big Brother 13" (Thursday), CBS, 8.15 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 8.09 million; "Big Brother 13" (Wednesday), CBS, 7.95 million; "Big Brother 13" (Sunday), CBS, 7.87 million; "NCIS" (Tuesday, 10 p.m.), CBS, 7.49 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 and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.