One Chicago ratings jump almost two million for impromptu finales

One Chicago franchise 2019-2020 season key art featuring the casts of Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med. Photo Credit: Courtesy of NBC.
One Chicago franchise 2019-2020 season key art featuring the casts of Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med. Photo Credit: Courtesy of NBC. /

One Chicago ratings lifted for the unplanned finales of Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med, and were up significantly over last year’s finales.

Last week’s One Chicago season finales may not have been planned that way, but they wound up performing better in the TV ratings than last season’s actual finales.

Between current events increasing the number of people who have been watching TV live, and a much weaker competition than they faced a year ago, all three One Chicago series earned bigger ratings than they did with their previous finales.

Chicago Fire and Chicago Med saw their audiences grow by almost two million more people than their 2019 swan songs, while Chicago PD continued to be the least-watched show but picked up extra viewers as well.

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The Med finale “A Needle in the Heart” finished with 9.22 million live viewers, compared to last season’s 7.44 million (+1.78 million). The show went from the fourth most-watched broadcast TV series on May 22, 2019 to second place on April 15, 2020.

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Chicago Fire‘s season finale edged it out with 9.33 million people watching “51’s Original Bell” live. The prior year had 7.46 million, resulting in an uptick of +1.87 million. It jumped from third place for the season 7 finale up to number one to end season 8.

While Chicago PD is still more than a million viewers behind the other two shows, “Silence of the Night” brought in 7.90 million eyeballs. Compared to the prior mark of 6.55, it was up +1.35 million year-to-year and finished in fourth place on Wednesday night overall.

All of these numbers are excellent in the One Chicago ratings book, but it’s also important to note the context, too. They’re impressive, but they’re also not perfect.

Season finales of almost every TV show are the highest-rated episodes, because even casual viewers tune in to see how the stories will end and what big plot twists will happen. Then on top of that, the ongoing pandemic has resulted in bigger live audiences for TV, because more people are at home.

The competition for these finales was softer, too; in 2019, the One Chicago franchise went up against ABC’s highly promoted Live in Front of a Studio Audience special, which dominated the night in both live ratings and the key demographic; that event actually won the night with over 10 million viewers at 8 p.m. and another 7.9 for the follow-up at 9 p.m.

This time around, the only truly difficult hour came at 8 p.m. with reality TV. There was a new The Masked Singer on FOX and a fresh Survivor on CBS; both beat Chicago Med among adults 18-49.

So finales plus less competition plus more people looking for something to watch equals a natural explosion in live TV ratings. But even considering the context, fans can still say that our shows got to finish their season on a high—not bad for episodes that weren’t expected to be finales.

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