04/09/2013 03:29 EDT | Updated 06/09/2013 05:12 EDT

Upstart broadcast beats more established country music awards show in the ratings

NEW YORK, N.Y. - There's a change in the pecking order for country music's competing awards shows, at least for this season.

The Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday were seen by an estimated 15.5 million people, the Nielsen company said. It is believed to be the first time the ACM awards outdrew the more established Country Music Association awards, which took place in November.

A much-anticipated musical pairing of George Strait and Garth Brooks, performing in a tribute to the late Dick Clark, was a highlight of Sunday's show. Luke Bryan was paired with Blake Shelton of "The Voice" as co-host, then beat him for entertainer of the year in what was considered an upset.

The Los Angeles-based Academy of Country Music was formed in the 1960s in response to the Nashville-based Country Music Association, and the two have been rivals for attention in the industry. The CMA's first televised awards show came in 1968, with the ACM following in 1972. The CMA awards have been more popular in every year since the advent of Nielsen's "people meter" ratings system in 1988, and presumably before that.

The CMA awards had 13.7 million viewers in November, Nielsen said. But ABC points out that it was televised only a few days after Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast and left millions of people without power; the same awards show had 16.4 million people the year before.

The prime-time Final Four matchup between Michigan and Syracuse gave CBS another big audience on Saturday, traditionally a quiet night of TV viewing. It was seen by 17.1 million people.

Last week also had an unusual sight: two episodes of "American Idol" finishing outside of Nielsen's 10 most popular programs. ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and NBC's "The Voice" were both more popular. In fact, it was largely due to "The Voice" that NBC finished ahead of Fox among younger viewers.

ABC's new sitcom "How to Live With Your Parents" had a strong debut with 8.4 million viewers, helped by following the popular "Modern Family" on the schedule. NBC's "Hannibal," a drama that the struggling network had pinned some high hopes upon, was seen by 4.4 million, Nielsen said.

CBS won the week handily in prime time, averaging 11.3 million viewers (7.0 rating, 11 share). ABC was second with a 6.7 million viewer average (4.4, 7), NBC had 5.24 million viewers (3.3, 5), Fox had 5.15 million (3.2, 5), the CW had 1.12 million (0.7, 1) and ION Television had 1.1 million (0.8, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.6 million prime-time average (1.9, 3), Telemundo had 1.4 million (0.7, 1), UniMas had 520,000 (0.3, 0), Estrella had 190,000 and Azteca 100,000 (both 0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.4 million viewers (5.6, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 7.4 million (5.1, 11) and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.4 million viewers (4.3, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 per cent 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 April 1-7, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 17.24 million; NCAA Final Four: Syracuse vs Michigan, CBS, 17.1 million people; Academy of Country Music Awards," CBS, 15.51 million. "Person of Interest," CBS, 14.57 million; "NCAA Basketball Bridge Show," CBS, 14.33 million; "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 13.98 million; "The Voice" (Tuesday), NBC, 13.93 million; "Dancing with the Stars," ABC, 13.91 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 13.71 million; "The Voice" (Monday), NBC, 13.31 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.