The exception was the CBS miniseries "Under the Dome," which has led in the ratings for much of the summer.
The MTV awards show was clearly the most talked about program, with Miley Cyrus' risque dance routine setting social media records. The show was seen live on television Sunday by nearly 10.1 million people, sharply up from the 6.1 million viewers for last year's program.
The audience was bigger in 2010 and 2011 but slumped in the previous years, according to the Nielsen ratings company. For six years starting in 1999, the audience ranged from 9.8 million to just under 12 million.
In another sign of how the television business has changed, only eight of the 25 most popular shows last week were reruns, including NBC's weekly recap of the previous week's "America's Got Talent." In years past, there were fewer first-run shows during the dog days of summer.
CBS easily won the week in prime time, averaging 6.1 million viewers. NBC had 4.7 million viewers, ABC had 4.1 million, Univision had 3.2 million, Fox had 2.6 million, ION Television had 1.2 million, Telemundo had 1.1 million and the CW had 890,000.
USA was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.7 million viewers in prime time. The Disney Channel had 2.4 million, TNT had 2.24 million, ESPN had 2.16 million and History had 2.1 million.
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.2 million viewers. ABC's "World News" was a close second with 7 million, and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.8 million viewers.
For the week of Aug. 19-25, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "Under the Dome," CBS, 10.64 million; "Duck Dynasty," A&E, 10.07 million; "Video Music Awards," MTV, 10.066 million; "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday, 9 p.m.), NBC, 9.35 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 8.67 million; "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 8.52 million; NFL Exhibition: Minnesota vs. San Francisco, NBC, 8.18 million; "NCIS," CBS, 7.95 million; NFL Exhibition: Seattle vs. Green Bay, CBS, 7.68 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 7.38 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 a unit of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. MTV is owned by Viacom Inc. A&E is owned by the A&E Television Networks.