100 Most-Watched TV Series of 2021-22: This Season’s Winners and Losers

100 Most-Watched TV Series of 2021-22: This Season’s Winners and Losers

Don’t call it a comeback. But thanks to sports, ever-expanding drama franchises and a handful of new hits, the Big 4 broadcast networks managed to avoid another year-to-year collapse during the now-concluded TV season.

Football once again ruled primetime, led by NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” while “Thursday Night Football” showed up twice on Nielsen’s top-rated series’ chart due to a quirk of some games airing only on NFL Network, and others simulcast on both Fox and NFL. (This won’t be an issue next year, as “Thursday Night Football” moves to Amazon Prime Video — and off this chart.)

But beyond that, network TV’s embrace of procedural dramas is giving broadcasters a fighting chance at survival. Dick Wolf is keeping the lights on at NBC and CBS, as the hitmaker’s “Law & Order,” “One Chicago” and “FBI” trilogies all make up a good chunk of the year’s most-watched TV show ranker. But ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and Fox’s “9-1-1” universe also remain potent.

Proving that networks can still launch new hits, freshman shows like CBS’ “Ghosts,” Fox’s “Next Level Chef,” NBC’s “La Brea” and ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” all made the grade this year. As a result, CBS ended the recently concluded 2021-2022 TV season flat, with 6.2 million viewers, followed by NBC (helped by the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics), up 14% vs. last year with 6 million viewers. Fox was in third, with 4.5 million (up 7%).

Not bad, and a relief after last year’s collapse, when ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox all suffered huge, double-digit dips. But this year’s tallies are still not back to network TV’s already eroding pre-pandemic audience numbers — and they probably never will be again. Those audiences, who migrated to other platforms in recent years, are at least probably still watching some of these shows. But their viewership is now being measured in the digital space, as they’re very unlikely to ever return to the linear world.

We remain in a period of transition, and that’s probably even more acutely felt in basic cable, where audiences are fleeing in even larger numbers than at the broadcasters. (There are some huge exceptions, like ESPN and TNT, but obviously because of sports.)

And yet the biggest entertainment show on TV is once again found on basic cable: Paramount Network — which had mostly gotten out of the original series business — suddenly has the No. 1 non-football show on television, “Yellowstone.”

The show’s sudden appearance in this year’s regular TV season ranker comes after Paramount decided to move Season 4 of “Yellowstone” into the fall. The modern-day Western from Taylor Sheridan had aired during the summers from 2018-20, keeping it out of Nielsen’s traditional September to May TV season tally. But this year, the show ran on Paramount from November to January — putting it up against traditional season favorites like “This Is Us” and “NCIS.” And for the first time since AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was a phenomenon, basic cable managed to beat out broadcast with the most-watched series (that wasn’t NFL football) in both total viewers and adults 18-49.

Here’s a final look at some of the hits and misses of 2021–2022, along with our lists of the most-watched shows of the season, according to both adults 18-49 and total viewers, using the most recent live+7 ratings (which include seven days’ worth of DVR and video on-demand usage).

WINNERS

Taylor Sheridan: The new king of primetime, Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” now reps the only entertainment series to average a 2.0 rating or better among adults 18-49. (Last year, “This Is Us” and “The Masked Singer” both secured a 2.0, but dropped this time). And while “Yellowstone” overtook broadcast staples including “NCIS” in total viewers, that’s actually not all. His series “1883” and “The Mayor of Kingstown” also made it on to the top 100 lists — but weren’t included here, because in both cases they were just two episode samples on Paramount Network, before moving on to their Paramount+ streaming home. An honorable mention here to Paramount Network for helping keep the basic cable scripted dream alive; ditto AMC, which still placed “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” on the rankers.

“Curse of Oak Island”: It’s still there. We’ll continue to marvel at the staying power of History channel’s “Curse of Oak Island,” a show that no one knows in Hollywood, but is clearly a phenomenon in other parts of the country. Last year, it was the most-watched cable entertainment series overall; this year, it’s No. 2 behind “Yellowstone.”

“90 Day Fiancé”: The “90 Day Fiancé” franchise also continues to amaze: “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days,” “90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way” and “90 Day Fiancé” are among the top-rated cable series of the year in adults 18-49.

“Ghosts”: The CBS hit comedy was the most-watched new series of the year in primetime, and was tied with Fox’s “Next Level Chef” as the top-rated freshman in the demo.

LOSERS

“Magnum P.I.”: Time for Thomas Magnum to solve the biggest mystery of his career: Who killed CBS’ “Magnum P.I.”? Much to the chagrin of the series’ fans, “Magnum” was the most-watched series to still earn a cancellation this year. It was axed despite averaging 7.3 million viewers (just down slightly from last year’s 7.4 million), good enough for No. 28 on the chart.

Baseball: NFL dominates the ratings schedule, and NBA makes the top 100 charts too. But where’s the original pastime? Once again, there’s no regular MLB franchise that makes the ratings grade.

Adults 18-49 ratings charts: How much longer can we even keep reporting young adult demos, when the numbers become microscopic? When there’s a 12-way tie for 19th place with a 1.0 rating, and the top 100 chart ends with a 28-way tie for 89th place with a 0.5 rating… the numbers lose any real meaning or value.

THE 100 TOP-RATED SERIES OF 2021-2022 (ADULTS 18-49)

Rank PROGRAM (NETWORK) RATING /SHARE 18-49 VIEWER (000)
1. NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC) 5.1/32 6,604
2. NFL Thursday Night Football (Fox/NFL) 4.3/31 5,609
3. NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN) 3.3/23 4,305
4. NFL Thursday Night Football (NFL) 2.7/20 3,467
5. Yellowstone (Paramount Network) 2.1/13 2,766
6. This Is Us (NBC) 1.5/12 2,010
7. Chicago PD (NBC) 1.3/11 1,748
9-1-1 (Fox) 1.3/10 1,740
Survivor (CBS) 1.3/10 1,718
Chicago Fire (NBC) 1.3/10 1,675
11. The Masked Singer (Fox) 1.2/10 1,606
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) 1.2/9 1,587
Law & Order: SVU (NBC) 1.2/9 1,538
Saturday Night Football (ABC) 1.2/10 1,531
15. Chicago Med (NBC) 1.1/9 1,494
The Bachelor (ABC) 1.1/8 1,416
American Idol (ABC) 1.1/9 1,406
Dancing with the Stars (ABC) 1.1/7 1,374
19. 60 Minutes (CBS) 1.0/7 1,367
The Voice (Monday) (NBC) 1.0/7 1,367
The Amazing Race (CBS) 1.0/8 1,355
The Voice (Tuesday) (NBC) 1.0/8 1,347
9-1-1: Lone Star (Fox) 1.0/8 1,345
Next Level Chef (Fox) 1.0/7 1,332
FBI (CBS) 1.0/8 1,299
Law & Order: Organized Crime (NBC) 1.0/8 1,273
Young Sheldon (CBS) 1.0/8 1,268
American Idol (Monday) (ABC) 1.0/8 1,259
The Bachelorette (CBS) 1.0/8 1,258
Ghosts (CBS) 1.0/7 1,248
31. La Brea (NBC) 0.9/7 1,212
Equalizer (CBS) 0.9/6 1,209
Station 19 (ABC) 0.9/7 1,208
NCIS (CBS) 0.9/6 1,205
FBI: Most Wanted (CBS) 0.9/7 1,145
36. The Neighborhood (CBS) 0.8/6 1,106
Abbott Elementary (ABC) 0.8/6 1,086
The Good Doctor (ABC) 0.8/7 1,083
The Conners (ABC) 0.8/6 1,071
The Walking Dead (AMC) 0.8/6 1,058
NCIS Hawai’i (CBS) 0.8/6 1,048
FBI: International (CBS) 0.8/6 1,031
S.W.A.T. (CBS) 0.8/7 1,024
Blue Bloods (CBS) 0.8/7 1,023
CSI: Vegas (CBS) 0.8/6 1,016
The Goldbergs (ABC) 0.8/6 1,003
The Rookie (ABC) 0.8/6 992
NBA Saturday Primetime (ABC) 0.8/7 986
The Simpsons (Fox) 0.8/5 983
Shark Tank (ABC) 0.8/7 982
51. Law & Order (NBC) 0.7/6 975
Family Guy (Fox) 0.7/5 966
New Amsterdam (NBC) 0.7/6 959
90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days (TLC) 0.7/5 959
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) 0.7/5 954
The Cleaning Lady (Fox) 0.7/5 932
The Resident (Fox) 0.7/5 905
Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS) 0.7/5 901
Below Deck (Bravo) 0.7/5 900
20/20 (Friday) (ABC) 0.7/6 880
90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way (TLC) 0.7/4 873
Magnum P.I. (CBS) 0.7/6 866
Big Sky (ABC) 0.7/5 862
A Million Little Things (ABC) 0.7/6 859
The Challenge: Spies Lies, Allies (MTV) 0.7/5 854
90 Day Fiancé (TLC) 0.7/5 850
67. America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) 0.6/5 839
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Fox) 0.6/6 837
Bob’s Burgers (Fox) 0.6/4 812
B Positive (CBS) 0.6/4 808
AGT Extreme (NBC) 0.6/5 805
Sister Wives (TLC) 0.6/5 802
Real Housewives of New Jersey (Bravo) 0.6/5 791
Fox College Football – Pac12 Prime (Fox) 0.6/5 780
Bull (CBS) 0.6/5 777
Dateline Friday (NBC) 0.6/5 773
Monday Night Football: Manningcast (ESPN) 0.6/4 763
That’s My Jam (NBC) 0.6/4 759
Masterchef Junior (Fox) 0.6/5 757
Below Deck Sailing Yacht (Bravo) 0.6/5 757
Judge Steve Harvey (ABC) 0.6/5 756
United States of Al (CBS) 0.6/4 751
Call Me Kat (Fox) 0.6/4 745
Supermarket Sweep (ABC) 0.6/3 744
Real Housewives of Orange County (Bravo) 0.6/4 728
1000-Lb. Sisters (TLC) 0.6/4 728
The Wonder Years (ABC) 0.6/4 727
Better Call Saul (AMC) 0.6/4 719
89. Home Economics (ABC) 0.5/4 712
WWE Monday Night Raw (USA) 0.5/4 708
The Thing About Pam (NBC) 0.5/5 706
The Blacklist (NBC) 0.5/4 705
The Curse of Oak Island (History) 0.5/4 705
Black-ish (ABC) 0.5/4 701
Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (Bravo) 0.5/3 691
Celebrity Wheel of Fortune (ABC) 0.5/3 688
Jersey Shore: Family Vacation (MTV) 0.5/4 685
Tough as Nails (CBS) 0.5/4 682
Young Rock (NBC) 0.5/4 670
Alter Ego (Fox) 0.5/4 666
South Park (Comedy Central) 0.5/4 660
NBA Basketball (TNT) 0.5/5 642
Married at First Sight (Lifetime) 0.5/4 641
NBA Basketball (ESPN) 0.5/5 638
I Can See Your Voice (Fox) 0.5/4 637
Snowfall (FX) 0.5/4 635
WWE Entertainment (Syfy) 0.5/4 626
Undercover Boss (CBS) 0.5/4 618
Our Kind of People (Fox) 0.5/3 616
Top Chef (Bravo) 0.5/4 612
Vanderpump Rules (Bravo) 0.5/3 612
American Auto (NBC) 0.5/4 606
The Great North (Fox) 0.5/3 596
College Football Prime (ESPN) 0.5/5 595
Ordinary Joe (NBC) 0.5/3 594
Queens (ABC) 0.5/4 589
Source: Nielsen. 09-20-2021 – 05-8-2022. Preliminary Live+7 Days, Prime, Original telecasts only, THREE EPISODES OR MORE. Top 100 shown based on A18-49. Excludes: Sports commentary; specials (special sports events also excluded, such as playoffs, finals, NFL draft); Spanish-language programming; childrens’ networks; movies and broadcast programs airing predominantly in Summer 2021 (e.g., AGT, Big Brother, Love Island).

TOP 100 SHOWS OF 2021-2022, TOTAL VIEWERS

America’s most-watched series of the 2020-2021 season are …

Rank Title (Network) VIEWERS (000)
1. NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC) 18,139
2. NFL Thursday Night Football (Fox/NFL Network) 15,397
3. Yellowstone (Paramount Network) 11,312
4. NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN) 11,233
5. NCIS (CBS) 11,010
6. FBI (CBS) 10,354
7. Chicago Fire (NBC) 9,917
8. Blue Bloods (CBS) 9,782
9. Equalizer (CBS) 9,452
10. 60 Minutes (CBS) 9,380
11. Chicago PD (NBC) 9,256
12. Young Sheldon (CBS) 9,222
13. Chicago Med (NBC) 9,203
14. FBI: Most Wanted (CBS) 8,846
15. NFL Thursday Night Football (NFL Network) 8,783
16. Ghosts (CBS) 8,409
17. NCIS: Hawai’i (CBS) 8,341
18. FBI: International (CBS) 8,312
19. The Voice-Tuesday (NBC) 8,278
20. 9-1-1 (Fox) 8,146
21. The Voice- Monday (NBC) 8,123
22. This Is Us (NBC) 8,004
23. 9-1-1: Lone Star (Fox) 7,460
24. Bull (CBS) 7,451
25. La Brea (NBC) 7,433
26. Survivor (CBS) 7,417
27. NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) 7,348
28. Magnum P.I. (CBS) 7,338
29. American Idol (ABC) 7,262
30. The Good Doctor (ABC) 7,141
31. American Idol-Monday (ABC) 6,992
32. Law & Order: SVU (NBC) 6,838
33. CSI: Vegas (CBS) 6,799
34. The Neighborhood (CBS) 6,759
35. Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS) 6,698
36. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) 6,506
37. S.W.A.T. (CBS) 6,491
38. The Rookie (ABC) 6,432
39. Dancing with the Stars (ABC) 6,303
40. Station 19 (ABC) 6,220
41. New Amsterdam (NBC) 6,173
42. Law & Order (NBC) 6,078
43. The Masked Singer (Fox) 5,876
44. United States of Al (CBS) 5,858
45. Seal Team (CBS) 5,830
46. Big Sky (ABC) 5,741
47. B Positive (CBS) 5,688
48. Law & Order: Organized Crime (NBC) 5,550
49. The Amazing Race (CBS) 5,500
50. The Cleaning Lady (Fox) 5,168
51. America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) 5,120
52. The Resident (Fox) 4,969
53. Saturday Night Football (ABC) 4,913
54. The Conners (ABC) 4,821
55. The Blacklist (NBC) 4,809
56. Shark Tank (ABC) 4,564
57. The Bachelor (ABC) 4,530
58. The Thing About Pam (NBC) 4,455
59. Judge Steve Harvey (ABC) 4,257
60. 20/20 (ABC) 4,255
61. Celebrity Wheel of Fortune (ABC) 4,240
62. How We Roll (CBS) 4,236
63. Dateline Friday (NBC) 4,168
64. A Million Little Things (ABC) 4,098
65. Undercover Boss (CBS) 4,085
66. AGT Extreme (NBC) 4,003
67. The Goldbergs (ABC) 3,974
68. Next Level Chef (Fox) 3,861
69. Abbott Elementary (ABC) 3,836
70. The Bachelorette (ABC) 3,827
71. Good Sam (CBS) 3,666
72. Curse of Oak Island (History) 3,611
73. Tough as Nails (CBS) 3,567
74. Endgame (NBC) 3,550
75. 48 Hours (CBS) 3,539
76. Ordinary Joe (NBC) 3,327
77. Beyond the Edge (CBS) 3,079
78. NBA Saturday Primetime (ABC) 3,030
79. That’s My Jam (NBC) 3,011
80. The Chase (ABC) 2,998
81. The Wonder Years (ABC) 2,966
82. Call Me Kat (Fox) 2,942
83. Home Economics (ABC) 2,894
84. Masterchef Junior (Fox) 2,887
85. The Walking Dead (AMC) 2,841
86. The Wall (NBC) 2,795
87. Supermarket Sweep (ABC) 2,782
88. Black-ish (ABC) 2,729
89. American Auto (NBC) 2,723
90. 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way (TLC) 2,659
91. Young Rock (NBC) 3,625
92. Alter Ego (Fox) 2,633
93. I Can See Your Voice (Fox) 2,632
94. Sister Wives (TLC) 2,625
95. Rock the Block (HGTV) 2,606
96. 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days (TLC) 2,582
97. To Tell the Truth (ABC) 2,528
98. WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Fox) 2,454
99. Better Call Saul (AMC) 2,416
100. Mr. Mayor (NBC) 2,358
Source: Nielsen. 09-20-2021 – 05-9-2022. Preliminary Live+7 Days, Prime, Original telecasts only, THREE EPISODES OR MORE. Top 100 shown based on A18-49. Excludes: Sports commentary; specials (special sports events also excluded, such as playoffs, finals, NFL draft); Spanish-language programming; childrens’ networks; movies and broadcast programs airing predominantly in Summer 2021 (e.g., AGT, Big Brother, Love Island).

THE MOST-WATCHED NETWORKS OF 2021-2022 (BY TOTAL VIEWERS)

  1. CBS (6,222,000; flat)
  2. NBC (5,988,000; up 14%)
  3. Fox (4,473,000; up 7%)
  4. ABC (4,171,000; down 10%)
  5. Fox News (2,474,000; down 16%)
  6. ESPN (2,146,000; up 20%)
  7. Univision (1,489,000; up 11%)
  8. TNT (1,183,000; up 19%)
  9. Hallmark (1,166,000; down 11%)
  10. MSNBC (1,162,000; down 46%)
  11. HGTV (1,139,000; down 12%)
  12. TBS (1,087,000; down 1%)
  13. Ion (1,024,000; down 4%)
  14. TLC (1,022,000; down 2%)
  15. Telemundo (991,000; down 4%)
  16. Discovery (869,000; down 11%)
  17. History (860,000; down 13%)
  18. Food Network (844,000; down 6%)
  19. INSP (822,000; up 15%)
  20. USA Network (774,000; down 9%)

THE TOP-RATED NETWORKS OF 2021-2022 (BY ADULTS 18-49)

1. NBC (1,458,000; up 10%)
2. Fox (1,346,000; down 3%)
3. CBS (1,033,000; down 18%)
4. ABC (936,000; down 21%)
5. ESPN (814,000; up 18%)
6. Univision (599,000; up 17%)
7. TNT (498,000; up 18%)
8. TBS (381,000; down 6%)
9. Telemundo (379,000; down 5%)
10. TLC (291,000; down 13%)


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