DVR ratings: 'The Big Bang Theory' is approaching 'Friends' territory

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big-bang-theory-dvr-ratings.jpgIt's no secret that "The Big Bang Theory" is having a fantastic year in the ratings. The show is ranked third in all of television in viewers, and second on the broadcast networks in adults 18-49.

The latest DVR ratings, though, highlight something pretty amazing: "The Big Bang Theory" could very well have the most-watched season of a half-hour comedy since "Friends" went off the air in 2004.

First-run episodes of the CBS show are averaging 20.3 million viewers this season in Nielsen's Live +7 ratings, along with a 7.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic. For the season as a whole (including repeats), "BBT" clocks in at 19.05 million viewers and 6.5 in the 18-49 demo.

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It trails only "NCIS" (21.2 million) and "Sunday Night Football" (20.9 million) in viewers, and it's second to "SNF" (8.0) among the under-50 crowd. It doesn't gain quite as much in the Live +7 ratings as ABC's "Modern Family" -- which adds 4.5 million viewers and 2.2 demo points to "Big Bang's" 4.1 million and 2.0 -- does, but "The Big Bang Theory" also starts from a higher point. Its rank as TV's top comedy is unchallenged.

"Big Bang's" numbers will probably come down a little between now and May -- there will be more repeats in the spring, and ratings for all shows tend to fall a bit when daylight saving time begins. But if it stays close to its average now, it should end 2012-13 as the most-watched comedy since "Friends" ended.

That final season of "Friends" in 2003-04 averaged about 20.8 million viewers. The biggest half-hour comedy since then was the final season of "Everybody Loves Raymond," which drew 17.4 million people per episode in 2004-05. With 13 new episodes to spread out over the 20 remaining weeks of the season, "The Big Bang Theory" has a very strong chance of passing "Raymond" and taking its place as the top-rated comedy in the post-"Friends" world.

Here are the season's Top 10 DVR gainers in viewers:

1. "Modern Family," +4,501,000 (12,318,000 to 16,819,000)
2. "Revolution," +4,353,000 (8,030,000 to 12,383,000)
3. "The Big Bang Theory," +4,109,000 (16,191,000 to 20,305,000)
4. "Elementary," +3,778,000 (10,963,000 to 14,741,000)
5. "Castle," +3,688,000 (10,166,000 to 13,854,000)
6. "Grey's Anatomy," +3,592,000 (9,487,000 to 13,079,000)
7. "NCIS," +3,482,000 (18,321,000 to 21,803,000)
8. "Person of Interest," +3,378,000 (14,331,000 to 17,709,000)
9. "Criminal Minds," +3,182,000 (11,847,000 to 15,029,000)
10. "The Mentalist," +3,149,000 (9,451,000 to 12,600,000)
Photo/Video credit: CBS