Stephen Colbert proved that all press is good press.
A storm over a crude remark the comedian made about President Donald Trump didn't hurt the late-night host in the ratings — to the contrary.
Colbert's CBS "Late Show" had its widest margin of victory over NBC's "Tonight" show since Colbert's debut week in September 2015, the Nielsen company said. The CBS show averaged 3.06 million viewers last week, which was up 12 percent from the previous week, Nielsen said.
During last Monday's show, a risque reference to Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin prompted calls for a boycott and an FCC investigation. Colbert said two nights later that he might have changed some of his language, but didn't apologize for the attack; the late-night host said he was angry with how Trump treated CBS "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson in an interview.
Colbert has been riding high in the ratings, eclipsing Jimmy Fallon as the most popular late-night host since Trump's inauguration with a steady stream of ridicule for the new president. Last week, Fallon's show averaged 2.65 million viewers, although NBC points out that "Tonight" retains its lead among younger viewers.
Meanwhile, television's biggest broadcasters are preparing for one of the most important weeks of their business year, when they introduce next season's schedules to advertisers in a series of meetings in New York. Their challenge is to come up with some new ideas to stem an audience decline that is partly due to greater competition and viewers making their own TV schedules through time-shifting, and partly due to a paucity of new hits.
The most popular prime-time shows last week were CBS' "NCIS" and "The Big Bang Theory," which have been on the air since 2003 and 2007, respectively.
Viewership at each of the four biggest networks last week was down compared with the same week last year, ranging from 5 percent at NBC to 11 percent at Fox, Nielsen said.
CBS won the week with a prime-time average of 7.1 million viewers. NBC had 5.2 million, ABC had 5 million, Fox had 2.4 million, Univision had 1.7 million, the CW had 1.24 million, ION Television had 1.2 million and Telemundo had 890,000.
TNT was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 3.24 million viewers in prime time. Fox News Channel had 2.07 million, ESPN had 1.78 million, HGTV had 1.39 million and MSNBC had 1.38 million.
NBC's "Nightly News" narrowly won the evening new race with an average of 7.69 million viewers. ABC's "World News Tonight" had 7.63 million viewers and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.2 million.
For the week of May 1-7, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "NCIS," CBS, 12.88 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 12.39 million; "Bull," CBS, 10.83 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 10.31 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 9.55 million; "Blue Bloods," CBS, 9.24 million; "The Voice" (Monday), NBC, 9.08 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 9.06 million; "The Big Bang Theory" (Thursday, 8:30 p.m.), CBS, 9 million; "The Voice" (Tuesday), NBC, 8.82 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.