NEW YORK — Television viewers tuned in to see TV stars celebrating each other on Sunday but didn’t ignore what else the medium had to offer.
The Nielsen ratings company said that on the night that “Breaking Bad” won an Emmy Award for best drama, the penultimate episode of the AMC series set a viewership record. An estimated 6.6 million people on Sunday watched “Breaking Bad,” which was airing when the cast got its award.
The series finale is scheduled for next Sunday.
The 3.3 million people who watched the series finale of “Dexter” opposite the Emmys represented not only the series high for the serial killer drama but the biggest audience that Showtime has ever gotten for one of its original series.
Despite the competition, the Emmy Awards were seen by an average of 17.6 million viewers, an increase of more than 4 million over the show’s audience last year. The CBS telecast was undoubtedly helped by airing directly after pro football in the East and Midwest.
The “Devious Maids” season finale Sunday on Lifetime drew 3 million viewers, a series best, the channel said. The drama, from “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry, has been renewed for a second year.
Nielsen said 40.3 million people were watching TV during the average minute of prime time on Sunday. That was 800,000 less than the same week a year ago. It’s clear what made the difference: Sunday’s NFL matchup between Chicago and Pittsburgh had 800,000 fewer viewers than last year’s Sunday night game.
Fox’s new haunted series, “Sleepy Hollow,” had a strong debut with a Top 10 Nielsen finish. The show jumped the gun on most new programming, which is debuting this week.
CBS won the week in prime time, averaging 9.1 million viewers. NBC had 7.5 million, ABC had 5.4 million, Fox had 4.4 million, Univision had 3.2 million, ION Television had 1.13 million, Telemundo had 1.05 million and the CW had 950,000.
ESPN was the most-watched cable network, averaging 3.3 million viewers in prime time. USA had 2.3 million viewers, The Disney Channel had 2.1 million, TBS had 2 million and The History Channel had 1.6 million.
NBC’s “Nightly News” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.1 million viewers. ABC’s “World News” was second with 7.5 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.2 million viewers.
For the week of Sept 16-22, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: Chicago at Pittsburgh, NBC, 20.51 million; “Emmy Awards,” CBS, 17.76 million; “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 16.04 million; “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick Show,” NBC, 14.55 million; NFL Football: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, ESPN, 14.33 million; “Under the Dome,” CBS, 12.1 million; “America’s Got Talent” (Wednesday), NBC, 11.49 million; “America’s Got Talent” (Tuesday), NBC, 11.19 million; “NCIS,” CBS, 10.64 million; “Sleepy Hollow,” Fox, 10.1 million.
AP Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.