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    Most Popular TV Shows of 2021-22, From ‘Yellowstone’ to ‘NCIS’

    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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