List of most watched television broadcasts in the United States

The following is a list of most watched television broadcasts in the United States based on average viewership and household ratings measurement conducted by Nielsen. The Super Bowl has frequently been the most watched American television broadcast of the year. Super Bowl XLIX is currently the most watched U.S. television broadcast with 114.4 million viewers.

Most watchedEdit

Broadcasts of all-timeEdit

 
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona was the site of Super Bowl XLIX, the most watched broadcast in American television history with 114.4 million viewers.

The following is the list of the most watched single-network television broadcasts in the United States by average viewership according to Nielsen. Twenty-nine of the thirty most watched broadcasts are Super Bowls, of which Super Bowl XLIX, with 114.4 million viewers, is number one. The most watched non-Super Bowl broadcasts are the finale of M*A*S*H in 1983 (106 million viewers), Dallas's 1980 "Who Done It" episode (83.6 million), the 1993 series finale of Cheers (80.5 million), the February 23, 1994, broadcast of ladies' singles figure skating at the 1994 Winter Olympics (78.8 million), the 1983 television film The Day After (77.4 million), and Part VIII of Roots in 1977 (76.7 million).[1][2]

Rank Broadcast Viewers Date Network
1 Super Bowl XLIX 114,442,000[3] February 1, 2015 NBC
2 Super Bowl XLVIII 112,191,000[3] February 2, 2014 Fox
3 Super Bowl 50 111,864,000[3] February 7, 2016 CBS
4 Super Bowl XLVI 111,346,000[3] February 5, 2012 NBC
5 Super Bowl LI 111,319,000[3] February 5, 2017 Fox
6 Super Bowl XLV 111,041,000[3] February 6, 2011 Fox
7 Super Bowl XLVII 108,693,000[3] February 3, 2013 CBS
8 Super Bowl XLIV 106,476,000[3] February 7, 2010 CBS
9 M*A*S*H ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen") 105,970,000[4] February 28, 1983 CBS
10 Super Bowl LII 103,471,000[3] February 4, 2018 NBC
11 Super Bowl LIV 100,466,000[5] February 2, 2020 Fox
12 Super Bowl XLIII 98,732,000[3] February 1, 2009 NBC
13 Super Bowl LIII 98,477,000[3] February 3, 2019 CBS
14 Super Bowl XLII 97,448,000[3] February 3, 2008 Fox
15 Super Bowl XXX 94,080,000[3] January 28, 1996 NBC
16 Super Bowl XLI 93,184,000[3] February 4, 2007 CBS
17 Super Bowl XX 92,570,000[3] January 26, 1986 NBC
18 Super Bowl XXVII 90,990,000[3] January 31, 1993 NBC
19 Super Bowl XL 90,745,000[3] February 5, 2006 ABC
20 Super Bowl XXVIII 90,000,000[3] January 30, 1994 NBC
Super Bowl XXXII 90,000,000[3] January 25, 1998 NBC
22 Super Bowl XXXVIII 89,795,000[3] February 1, 2004 CBS
23 Super Bowl XXXVII 88,637,000[3] January 23, 2003 ABC
24 Super Bowl XXXIV 88,465,000[3] January 30, 2000 ABC
25 Super Bowl XXXI 87,870,000[3] January 26, 1997 Fox
26 Super Bowl XXI 87,190,000[3] January 25, 1987 CBS
27 Super Bowl XXXVI 86,801,000[3] February 3, 2002 Fox
28 Super Bowl XXXIX 86,072,000[3] February 6, 2005 Fox
29 Super Bowl XIX 85,530,000[3] January 20, 1985 ABC
30 Super Bowl XVI 85,240,000[3] January 24, 1982 CBS

Series by yearEdit

Season Live Live + 3 DVR Live + 7 DVR
Series Network Households
(millions)
Viewers
(millions)
Series Network Viewers
(millions)
Series Network Viewers
(millions)
1950s
1950–1951 Texaco Star Theatre NBC 6.28[6] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1951–1952 Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts CBS 8.23[7] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1952–1953 I Love Lucy 13.73[8] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1953–1954 15.29[9] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1954–1955 15.14[10] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1955–1956 The $64,000 Question 16.58[11] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1956–1957 I Love Lucy 17.00[12] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1957–1958 Gunsmoke 18.07[13] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1958–1959 17.40[14] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1959–1960 18.44[15] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1960s
1960–1961 Gunsmoke CBS 17.61[16] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1961–1962 Wagon Train NBC 15.59[17] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1962–1963 The Beverly Hillbillies CBS 18.11[18] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1963–1964 20.18[19] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1964–1965 Bonanza NBC 19.13[20] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1965–1966 17.12[21] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1966–1967 16.04[22] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1967–1968 The Andy Griffith Show CBS 15.64[23] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1968–1969 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In NBC 18.52[24] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1969–1970 15.39[25] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1970s
1970–1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. ABC 17.79[26] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1971–1972 All in the Family CBS 21.11[27] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1972–1973 21.58[28] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1973–1974 20.65[29] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1974–1975 20.69[30] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1975–1976 20.95[31] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1976–1977 Happy Days ABC 22.43[32] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1977–1978 Laverne & Shirley 23.04[33] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1978–1979 22.72[34] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1979–1980 60 Minutes CBS 21.67[35] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1980s
1980–1981 Dallas CBS 27.57[36] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1981–1982 23.15[37] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1982–1983 60 Minutes 21.24[38] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1983–1984 Dallas 21.54[39] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1984–1985 Dynasty ABC 21.23[40] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1985–1986 The Cosby Show NBC 28.95[41] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1986–1987 30.50[42] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1987–1988 Unknown Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1988–1989 23.14[43] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1989–1990 21.28[44] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Roseanne ABC Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1990s
1990–1991 Cheers NBC 19.83[45] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1991–1992 60 Minutes CBS 20.17[46] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1992–1993 20.39[47] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1993–1994 19.69[48] Unknown N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1994–1995 Home Improvement[A] ABC N/A 32.50[49] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Seinfeld[A] NBC 19.56[50] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1995–1996 ER 21.10[51] 32.00[52] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1996–1997 20.56[53] 30.79[54] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1997–1998 Seinfeld 21.27[53] 34.10[55] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1998–1999 ER 17.69[56] 25.40[57] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1999–2000 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Tues) ABC Unknown 28.53[58] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2000s
2000–2001 Survivor CBS Unknown 29.80[59] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2001–2002 Friends NBC Unknown 24.50[60] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2002–2003 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CBS Unknown 26.12[61] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2003–2004 American Idol (Tues) Fox Unknown 25.73[62] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2004–2005 Unknown 27.32[63] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2005–2006 Unknown 31.17[64] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2006–2007 American Idol (Wed) Unknown 30.58[65] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2007–2008 American Idol (Tues) Unknown 28.80[66] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2008–2009 American Idol (Wed) Unknown 25.53[67] N/A N/A N/A American Idol (Wed) Fox 26.88[67]
2009–2010 American Idol (Tues) Unknown 22.97[68] N/A N/A N/A American Idol (Tues) 24.71[69]
2010s
2010–2011 American Idol (Wed) Fox Unknown 23.95[70] N/A N/A N/A American Idol (Wed) Fox 26.20[70]
2011–2012 NBC Sunday Night Football NBC Unknown Unknown N/A N/A N/A NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 20.74[71]
2012–2013 Unknown Unknown N/A N/A N/A NCIS[B] CBS 21.34[73]
2013–2014 Unknown 21.42[74] N/A N/A N/A The Big Bang Theory 23.10[74]
2014–2015 Unknown 20.69[75] N/A N/A N/A NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 20.81[75]
2015–2016 Unknown 21.30[76] NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 21.38[77] 21.39[78]
2016–2017 Unknown 19.63[79] 19.73[80] 19.75[81]
2017–2018 Unknown 17.58[82] Roseanne ABC 18.21[83] Roseanne ABC 19.96[84]
2018–2019 Unknown 18.80[85] NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 18.92[85] NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 18.94[86]

Highest ratedEdit

Broadcasts of all-timeEdit

The highest rated broadcast of all-time is the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983, with 60.2% of all households with television sets in the United States at that time watching the episode.[87][88] Aside from Super Bowls, the most recent broadcast to receive a rating above 40 was the Seinfeld finale in 1998, with a 41.3.[89][90]

Nielsen only began recording a list of ratings for individual broadcasts starting in July 1960, therefore ratings before that time are not included in their official count.[91]

Rank Broadcast Rating Share Date Network
1 M*A*S*H ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen") 60.2 77 February 28, 1983 CBS
2 Dallas ("Who Done It") 53.3 76 November 21, 1980 CBS
3 Roots ("Part VIII") 51.1 71 January 30, 1977 ABC
4 Super Bowl XVI 49.1 73 January 24, 1982 CBS
5 Super Bowl XVII 48.6 69 January 30, 1983 NBC
6 1994 Winter Olympics (Ladies' singles) 48.5 64 February 23, 1994 CBS
7 Super Bowl XX 48.3 70 January 26, 1986 NBC
8 The Big Event (Gone with the Wind (Part 1)) 47.7 65 November 7, 1976 NBC
9 Super Bowl XLIX 47.5 71 February 1, 2015 NBC
10 Monday Night at the Movies (Gone with the Wind (Part 2)) 47.4 64 November 8, 1976 NBC
11 Super Bowl XII 47.2 67 January 15, 1978 CBS
12 Super Bowl XIII 47.1 74 January 21, 1979 NBC
12 Super Bowl XLVI 47.0 71 February 5, 2012 NBC
13 Super Bowl XLVIII 46.7 69 February 2, 2014 Fox
14 The Bob Hope Vietnam Christmas Show 46.6 64 January 15, 1970 NBC
Super Bowl 50 46.6 72 February 7, 2016 CBS
16 Super Bowl XVIII 46.4 71 January 22, 1984 CBS
Super Bowl XIX 46.4 63 January 20, 1985 ABC
Super Bowl XLVII 46.4 69 February 3, 2013 CBS
19 Super Bowl XIV 46.3 67 January 20, 1980 CBS
20 The ABC Sunday Night Movie (The Day After) 46.0 62 November 20, 1983 ABC
Super Bowl XXX 46.0 68 January 28, 1996 NBC
Super Bowl XLV 46.0 69 February 6, 2011 Fox
23 The Fugitive ("The Judgment: Part 2") 45.9 72 August 29, 1967 ABC
Roots ("Part VI") 45.9 66 January 28, 1977 ABC
25 Super Bowl XXI 45.8 66 January 25, 1987 CBS
26 Roots ("Part V") 45.7 71 January 27, 1977 ABC
27 Cheers ("One for the Road") 45.5 64 May 20, 1993 NBC
Super Bowl XXVIII 45.5 66 January 30, 1994 NBC
29 The Ed Sullivan Show (The Beatles first appearance) 45.3 60 February 9, 1964 CBS
Super Bowl LI 45.3 70 February 5, 2017 Fox
30 Super Bowl XXVII 45.1 66 January 31, 1993 NBC

TimelineEdit

The following is a timeline of the highest rated television broadcasts since December 17, 1960.[87][88][92]

Timeline of the highest rated television broadcasts
M*A*S*HDallas (1978 TV series)Roots (1977 miniseries)NBC Sunday Night MovieBob Hope television specialsThe Fugitive (1963 TV series)The Ed Sullivan ShowThe Beverly HillbilliesThe Beverly HillbilliesMiss America 1961Gunsmoke#Television series (1955–1975)

Series by yearEdit

The following is a list of the highest rated television series by year.[93][94]

Season Series Network Rating
1950s
1950–1951 Texaco Star Theatre NBC 61.6
1951–1952 Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts CBS 53.8
1952–1953 I Love Lucy 67.3
1953–1954 58.8
1954–1955 49.3
1955–1956 The $64,000 Question 47.5
1956–1957 I Love Lucy 43.7
1957–1958 Gunsmoke 43.1
1958–1959 39.6
1959–1960 40.3
1960s
1960–1961 Gunsmoke CBS 37.3
1961–1962 Wagon Train NBC 32.1
1962–1963 The Beverly Hillbillies CBS 36.0
1963–1964 39.1
1964–1965 Bonanza NBC 36.3
1965–1966 31.8
1966–1967 29.1
1967–1968 The Andy Griffith Show CBS 27.6
1968–1969 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In NBC 31.8
1969–1970 26.3
1970s
1970–1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. ABC 29.6
1971–1972 All in the Family CBS 34.0
1972–1973 33.3
1973–1974 31.2
1974–1975 30.2
1975–1976 30.1
1976–1977 Happy Days ABC 31.5
1977–1978 Laverne & Shirley 31.6
1978–1979 30.5
1979–1980 60 Minutes CBS 28.4
1980s
1980–1981 Dallas CBS 34.5
1981–1982 28.4
1982–1983 60 Minutes 25.5
1983–1984 Dallas 25.7
1984–1985 Dynasty ABC 25.0
1985–1986 The Cosby Show NBC 33.7
1986–1987 34.9
1987–1988 27.8
1988–1989 25.6
1989–1990 23.1
Roseanne ABC 23.1
1990s
1990–1991 Cheers NBC 21.3
1991–1992 60 Minutes CBS 21.9
1992–1993 21.9
1993–1994 20.9
1994–1995 Seinfeld NBC 20.6
1995–1996 ER 22.0
1996–1997 21.2
1997–1998 Seinfeld 21.7
1998–1999 ER 17.8
1999–2000 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Tues) ABC 18.6
2000s
2000–2001 Survivor CBS 17.4
2001–2002 Friends NBC 15.0
2002–2003 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CBS 16.3
2003–2004 15.9
2004–2005 16.5
2005–2006 American Idol (Tues) Fox 17.6
2006–2007 American Idol (Wed) 17.3
2007–2008 American Idol (Tues) 16.1
2008–2009 American Idol (Wed) 15.1
2009–2010 American Idol (Tues) 13.7
2010s
2010–2011 American Idol (Wed) Fox 14.5
2011–2012 NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 12.4
2012–2013 NCIS CBS 13.5
2013–2014 12.6
NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 12.6
2014–2015 12.3
2015–2016 NCIS CBS 12.8
2016–2017 The Big Bang Theory 11.5
2017–2018 11.1
2018–2019 NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 10.9


NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b During the 1994–1995 television season, ABC's Home Improvement was watched by the most viewers (32.50 million), while NBC's Seinfeld was watched by the most households (19.56 million).[49][50]
  2. ^ NBC Sunday Night Football aired three broadcasts before the official start of 2012–2013 television season which are not counted in the rankings. If these broadcasts were counted, NBC Sunday Night Football would average 21.44 million viewers—more than NCIS.[72]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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