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Top 50 shows
1. “NCIS” (CBS), 21.6 million
2. “Sunday Night Football” (NBC), 21 million
3. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS), 18.7 million
4. “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS), 17.5 million
5. “Person of Interest” (CBS), 15.9 million
6. “Fox NFL Sunday” (Fox), 15.8 million
7. “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick Off” (NBC), 15.3 million
8. “American Idol” Wednesday (Fox), 15.1 million
9. “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 15 million
10. “American Idol” Thursday (Fox), 14.8 million
11. “The Voice” Monday (NBC), 14.4 million
12. “Dancing With the Stars” results show (ABC), 13.9 million
13. “Two and a Half Men” (CBS), 13.7 million
14. “The Voice” Tuesday (NBC), 13.5 million
15. “Blue Bloods” (CBS), 13 million
16. “NFL Regular Season Monday Night Football” (ESPN), 12.9 million
17. “Elementary” (CBS), 12.7 million
18. “Modern Family” (ABC), 12.6 million
19. “Criminal Minds” (CBS), 12.5 million
20. “The O.T.” (Fox), 12.5 million
21. “Castle” (ABC), 12.5 million
22. “60 Minutes” (CBS), 12.4 million
23. “Vegas” (CBS), 12 million
24. “The Following” (Fox), 11.9 million
25. “CSI” (CBS), 11.9 million
26. “Survivor: Philippines” (CBS), 11.9 million
27. “The Mentalist” (CBS), 11.5 million
28. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC), 11.3 million
29. “CSI: NY” (CBS), 11.2 million
30. “Football Night in America” (NBC), 11.1 million
31. “Survivor: Caramoan” (CBS), 10.9 million
32. “Revolution” (NBC), 10.8 million
33. “Body of Proof” (ABC), 10.8 million
34. “2 Broke Girls” (CBS), 10.7 million
35. “The Amazing Race” (CBS), 10.7 million
36. “The Good Wife” (CBS), 10.7 million
37. “Hawaii Five-0” (CBS), 10.6 million
38. “Mike & Molly” (CBS), 10.4 million
39. “Once Upon a Time” (ABC), 10.3 million
40. “Amazing Race 21” (CBS), 10.1 million
41. “Golden Boy” (CBS), 9.9 million
42. “The X Factor” Wednesday (Fox), 9.6 million
43. “The X Factor” Thursday (Fox), 9.5 million
44. “Bones” (Fox), 9.4 million
45. “The Bachelor” (ABC), 9.4 million
46. “BCS Bowl Studio Show” (ESPN), 9.3 million
47. “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS), 9.2 million
48. “Revenge” (ABC), 9 million
49. “Scandal” (ABC), 8.6 million
50. “The Middle” (ABC), 8.5 million
– Nielsen
“NCIS,” which stars Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly, was the top-rated series on TV for the 2012-13 season.

Viewer demographics most crucial TV rating

Popularity does not always equal success in prime-time television. That’s the lesson one can learn from a look at the Top 50 shows of the 2012-13 TV season.

It has been a few weeks since the TV season officially wrapped up, allowing time for Nielsen to collect Live + 7 data through May 26. Live + 7 is the rating that includes both live TV viewing and DVR playback within the following seven days.

Fans of CBS’s “Vegas” are likely to be miffed if they examine this list carefully. “Vegas” ranked as the No. 23 show in all of prime time across broadcast and cable with 12 million viewers, but it still got canceled and plenty of shows with millions of fewer viewers got renewed.

Similarly, ABC’s “Body of Proof” (No. 33) and CBS’s “Golden Boy” (No. 41) also made the Top 50, but they, too, were canceled. Why would a network cancel a popular show?

It’s simple: Overall popularity is often less important business-wise than demographic popularity. The TV business is driven by the desires of advertisers, and advertisers crave younger viewers on the assumption that they are less brand-loyal and more willing to try something new.

There are many different demographics measured, but a key consideration is the 18-49 age demo. On that score, “Body of Proof” and “Vegas” were tied at No. 72 in the 18-49 demo in live-plus-same-day ratings (Live + 7 ratings were not available) and “Golden Boy” was No. 97, according to Nielsen.

Another thing to remember: Not all shows are created equal. CBS’s “The Good Wife” fared even worse than “Vegas,” ranking No. 84 in 18-49, but it was renewed. Why? Probably because “The Good Wife” generates more social-media buzz and is a critical darling.

CBS may see “Good Wife” as a bit of a loss leader, one of the network’s few prestige projects that it’s happy to have to balance against the network’s more popular but less acclaimed programming.