Specify immediately that this list will not be complete. In an age of streaming, where no platform is willing to give up all it knows about who’s watching its shows – and those available metrics don’t take into account every way someone might be. watch a show – any compilation that touts “most viewed” must come with at least a few caveats.
None of that means figuring out which shows have the biggest audiences isn’t fun – and the results of The Hollywood ReporterCompilation’s got a few surprises. The fall’s biggest shows across various stores represent scripted and unscripted shows, breakout newcomers, and good mainstays of their second decade.
On those notes: To get as close as possible to a character crossing the platform, CHEAP calculated minutes watched for broadcast and cable episodes from Nielsen’s seven-day ratings. That allows for comparison with streaming video series, as measured by Nielsen using the total minutes metric. Where could be, CHEAP also added streaming minutes of currently airing cable and network shows to their online dashboard – though that really only affects CBS’ NCIS and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, are the main movies in the top 10 acquired shows on Netflix.
Meanwhile, seven-day ratings for broadcast and cable shows failed to capture online repeats or online viewership. For some premium cable plans, CHEAP also accept cross-platform metrics from those stores, covering a longer time period. These items will be marked with an asterisk. Similarly, Nielsen’s streaming chart doesn’t include HBO Max, Peacock, or Paramount+, nor does it break through the top 10. So even though people are certainly still watching. Squid fishing game After it fell off the top 10 list, how much was almost impossible to determine.
With all of that in mind, these were the biggest performances in the fourth quarter.
Biggest show on TV: NFL
Over 15 weeks of the season (which ends December 21), NFL games draw an average of about 16.6 million viewers per competition (including digital), a 7% improvement over for the 2020 season. The three shows on the league’s prime time slot on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights are all up at least 8% annually, and the Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET slot is split by CBS and Fox. Share is still the most watched program on TV.
An average of 16.6 million including 98 telecasts. Taking a rough average of three hours per game, that means the NFL has racked up nearly 293 billion minutes of watch time. As it will become clear below, that number outright outperforms everything else on this list.
(In fact, everything below could have a “different from football” connotation in its title.)
Biggest ABC Shows: ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
One-hour dramas have an edge over half-hour comedies in the total minutes game, and two-hour shows without dialogue are even bigger. That’s why Dancing with the stars – despite having only the sixth largest average audience of any ABC drama this fall – has the highest total watch time online at 7.17 billion minutes, based on seven-day ratings.
Grey’s Anatomy 2.81 billion minutes of watch time in ratings from seven days through December 12 (during which time it aired three fewer episodes than DWTS). However, add that to Nielsen’s weekly streaming charts, and the series has skyrocketed to 7.06 billion minutes.
Biggest CBS Show: ‘NCIS’
Thanks to three more episodes NCIS, 60 minutes got more total watch time based on ratings over seven days: just under 7 billion to 6.07 billion for NCIS. Still, the second season consistently racked up more than 500 million minutes of weekly streaming on Netflix, according to Nielsen, bringing the total for its drop to about 11.6 billion.
Biggest NBC Show: ‘The Voice’
Both weekly editions of Voice averaged over 8 million viewers in seven days. The second show, with a two-hour run, took up 11.53 billion minutes of viewer time. Added to the third version brings VoiceA total of nearly 17.4 billion minutes per episode.
Biggest Fox Show: ‘911’
As Masked singerThe glare has dimmed a bit over the past few seasons, the Ryan Murphy-produced TV series has taken the #1 spot on the net by pretty decent margins. Including self-reported streaming numbers, Fox said 911 is averaging 13 million viewers per episode with a total viewing time of 7.67 billion minutes.
Biggest CW Show: ‘Walker’
CW said All Americans was the show’s most streamed, and Nielsen put numbers over the summer — when the show’s third season arrives on Netflix — backing that claim. But in terms of the quantity available for the fall, Walker took the crown, with less than 610 million minutes of viewing time based on a seven-day Nielsen rating. All Americans stood at 415.2 million, just after 416.8 million for Penn & Teller: Fool us, which aired two more episodes from the beginning of the season through December 12.
Biggest Cable Show: ‘Yellowstone’
Paramount Network’s massive success didn’t benefit streaming on internal Paramount+, as ViacomCBS sold the show’s streaming rights to NBCUniversal’s Peacock. But YellowstoneThe fourth season of the show averaged 11 million viewers in seven days, with running lengths regularly exceeding 60 minutes. That number reached 5.18 billion minutes watched in just seven episodes.
Biggest HBO Show: ‘Mare of Easttown’ *
It’s correct, Mare runs in spring, so the “fall 2021” part of the title doesn’t apply there. But because of the noise Heir already in its third season – and it has risen in ratings as much as season two – it doesn’t come close to the audience of the limited series starring Kate Winslet. With time for people to watch, Mare of Easttown reached an average of 13 million viewers per episode through mid-December, according to HBO’s cross-platform numbers. That’s about 5.4 billion minutes of watch time. HeirThe nine-episode third season hit 3.29 billion minutes, based on an average of 6.1 million viewers as of December 13.
Biggest Showtime Show: ‘Dexter: New Blood’ *
The revival of Dexter, eight years after the series finale went viral, has been a major draw for Showtime — big enough, in fact, to outlast every season of the original show. New blood is attracting an average of 7 million cross-platform viewers through its first seven episodes, per Showtime. That gives it a total watch time of about 2.56 billion minutes.
Biggest Netflix Show: ‘Squid Fishing Game’
According to the streamer, Netflix’s biggest hit is Netflix’s biggest movie ever by the new standard of total hours watched: Squid fishing game accumulated 1.6 billion watch hours worldwide in 28 days, more than double the previous #1 spot, Bridgerton (625 million hours). The worldwide figure equates to 96 billion minutes of viewing; in U.S.A, Squid fishing game totaled 14.1 billion minutes of watch time in nine weeks when Nielsen figures for the show were available.
The biggest show on other celebrities: ‘Ted Lasso’ (currently)
Nielsen started putting Apple TV+ on its weekly streaming charts for the week of September 20 — shortly after Ted Lasso dominated the comedy scene at the Emmys. The series grossed 2.92 billion minutes of viewing time in the following eight weeks, surpassing the total of any other non-Netflix series in the fourth quarter. By Hulu There are only murders in the building attracted 1.51 billion minutes of viewing in six weeks, it entered the Nielsen top 10.
Wheel of time and Hawk Eye likely to challenge Ted Lasso when Nielsen’s streaming charts for December are released. Wheel of time earned over 1.8 billion minutes on Amazon’s Prime Video in its first two weeks, and Hawk Eye opens with 853 million minutes for Disney+ Thanksgiving week.