What are the most popular TV shows in same-sex households? Nielsen has the answers

Nielsen measures TV viewership by all kinds of folks, from kids to 55-plus, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.  Now add same-sex households to the mix.

In a first, the ratings service, in conjunction with advocacy group GLAAD, has begun measuring viewership in households with same-sex couples, either spouses or unmarried partners. And initial results vary widely from the population at large, with some surprises.

For the first week of the official TV season, ending Sept. 30, the top entertainment series among all viewers were “Manifest,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “NCIS” and “This Is Us.”

But in same-sex homes, CBS revival “Murphy Brown” was the most popular show, by a significant margin, with about 14 percent of an estimated 2.5 million TV households watching. It was followed by “Manifest,” “American Horror Story” and “This Is Us.”

Other prime-time shows preferred in same-sex homes but absent from the Top 20 among all viewers for premiere week were ABC’s “Modern Family,” CBS sitcom “Mom,” Fox’s “9-1-1,” MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and Fox’s “Empire.” 

Maddow is openly gay, “Modern Family” prominently features its own same-sex couple and “Empire” and “9-1-1” feature major gay characters.  

CBS dramas that are among the most popular overall, including “NCIS,” “FBI,” “Blue Bloods” and “Bull,” don’t rank highly on the same-sex list.

Still, there’s considerable overlap among both groups, including CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”

The new measurement includes only couples, not LGBTQ viewers who live alone, because of the way that demographic data is collected about members of Nielsen panels. The ratings service eventually hopes to include individuals in the sample, but is sensitive to privacy concerns.

“We are at the highest levels ever reported for LGBTQ inclusion on television, and it’s important that we know American audiences are connecting with these characters and shows,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president and CEO, in a statement. “We appreciate Nielsen’s commitment to ensuring that LGBTQ people wherever they live and consume television are being counted, and that those numbers are being reported. GLAAD is proud to work alongside them as they continue to expand and enhance their capabilities.”

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