TV season ratings: NBC scrapes its way out of fourth place in adults 18-49 thanks to the NFL

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super-bowl-nbc-ratings.jpgThe 2011-12 TV season, as measured by Nielsen, ended Wednesday night (May 23). There's no change at the top -- CBS is still the most-watched network overall, and FOX still has the best ratings among adults 18-49.

Further down the list, though, there's some actual news: For the first time since "Friends" was still on the air, it looks like NBC will not finish the season in fourth place in the 18-49 demographic. NBC has a 2.5 rating in the demo to ABC's 2.4. Final season averages won't be known until DVR use is figured in a couple weeks from now, but the worst likely outcome for NBC is a third-place tie with ABC.

The move up to bronze-medal status is thanks in part to the fact that NBC aired the Super Bowl this year ( "Sunday Night Football" was also the No. 1 series on TV this season) and used it to give "The Voice" a huge launch. ABC notes that if you factor out sports, its numbers are better than NBC's, but we're looking at the total package here.

NBC's total audience grew a little in the 2011-12 season too, but it's still in fourth place there, about a million viewers behind ABC. The CW had a rough year, falling double digits in both viewers and adults 18-49.

FOX has now led the 18-49 demographic for eight straight seasons, even though its numbers were off by 9 percent this season (due in part to "American Idol's" declines). CBS is chalking up its ninth total-viewer win in the past 10 years. Here's how the networks stack up for the season and how their numbers for 2011-12 compare to the 2010-11 season:

Total viewers

CBS: 11.7 million, +1%
FOX: 8.9 million, -9%
ABC: 8.4 million, -1%
NBC: 7.4 million, +5%
The CW: 1.7 million, -15%

Adults 18-49

FOX: 3.2 rating, -9%
CBS: 3.0, +3%
NBC: 2.5, +9%
ABC: 2.4, -4%
The CW: 0.7, -22%
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images