"60 Minutes" on Sunday night notched its highest ratings in a decade, as CBS's exclusive interview with the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels got a boost from Kansas' thrilling overtime win over Duke, also on CBS, in the NCAA basketball tournament.
According to preliminary Nielsen data, Daniels' revealing conversation with Anderson Cooper about her relationship with future-President Donald Trump was watched by some 23.5 million viewers, of whom around 7.25 million were members of CBS's target audience. (The half-hour that coincided with Daniels' appearance delivered a 6.0 rating among adults 25 to 54).
Factoring in the second half of the broadcast, which included an interview with NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, "60 Minutes" on Sunday averaged 22.1 million viewers and a 5.3 in the demo, which works out to 6.35 million adults 25 to 54.
Any way you crunch the numbers, the woman who claims to have playfully spanked Donald Trump with a copy of Forbes magazine's "400 Richest Americans" issue gave the President a rough time in the ratings. On Nov. 13, 2016, Trump's post-election "60 Minutes" interview with Lesley Stahl averaged 18.8 million fast-national viewers and a 4.3 in the demo, deliveries that would be upgraded to 20 million viewers and a 4.6 rating in the final live-same-day tally.
While Daniels' discussion about her 2006 affair with the former "Celebrity Apprentice" star/real estate mogul drew a much larger crowd than did Trump's victory lap, Sunday's broadcast enjoyed a significant lift courtesy of its immediate lead-in. In denying Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski a record 13th trip to the Final Four, the Kansas Jayhawks helped CBS scare up 25.6 million viewers and a lofty 7.2 in the 25-to-54 demo in the 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EDT time slot.
CBS heavily promoted the "60 Minutes" segment with Daniels throughout its broadcast of the Kansas-Duke game. As Duke freshman forward Wendall Carter, Jr., stepped to the line to shoot free throws in the middle of the first half, the network's play-by-play man, Jim Nantz, read a teaser for the Daniels interview and the Antetokounmpo profile. (After characterizing the Daniels' segment as "the interview people have been waiting for," the unflappable Nantz referred to Giannis as "the basketball sensation who's so talented, his fellow NBA players call him 'The Freak.'")
For his part, President Trump's 2016 "60 Minutes" interview was preceded by a half-hour installment of "CBS Weekend News." On that particular Sunday, Fox had bragging rights to the late national NFL broadcast, a Steelers-Cowboys showdown that drew a season-high 28.9 million viewers. If CBS had aired the Trump interview on the following Sunday, "60 Minutes" would have lead out of an Eagles-Seahawks battle that delivered 24.4 million viewers.
To find an installment of "60 Minutes" that racked up higher ratings than last night's show, you'd have to cop all the way back to November 2008, when President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle sat down with veteran correspondent Steve Croft. Per Nielsen official national data, the interview with the Obamas averaged 25.1 million viewers and an 8.1 rating in the 25-to-54 demo.
In the midst of its 50th season on CBS, "60 Minutes" is averaging 11.6 million viewers and a 2.2 rating, which breaks down to around 2.66 million adults 25-to-54. It currently stands as broadcast's fourth most-watched non-sports program behind CBS's own "The Big Bang Theory" (14.3 million viewers), "NCIS" (13.2 million) and "Young Sheldon" (12.6 million).