List of most watched television broadcasts

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The following is a partial list of most watched television broadcasts, organized by country and based on various criteria.[1]

Worldwide viewership statistics cited in press releases by television networks, FIFA, the NBA and others have been questioned by independent groups and audience figures cited in tens are considered practically unverifiable. FIFA has admitted that numbers have been massively exaggerated in some cases, and simply guessed in others.[2] Estimates for the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony global TV viewership varied between one and four billion,[3][4][5][6][7][8] including an estimated 842 million viewers watching on host Chinese broadcaster China Central Television.[3] A verifiable audience of 984 million tuned into the opening ceremony at some stage, averaging at 593 million, while 778 million watched the closing ceremony.[9]

The 2008 Summer Olympics boasts the world record for the largest global viewership for a multi-day television broadcast. It is estimated by Nielsen Media Research that up to 4.7 billion individual viewers (or almost 70% of the world's 7-billion strong population) watched some part of the coverage, including its peak conclusion final hour in August 2008.[10][11]

IPG independent media agency Initiative Worldwide estimated that 260 million people worldwide watched the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final (the average audience for the broadcast of the game).[2] Six hundred million watched some part of the game (the "reach").[12] In 2010 another independent firm estimated that 322 million viewers watched the 2006 final on average, with a reach of 638 million.[13] None of these figures match the estimate by event organizers FIFA, a "global cumulative audience" of 715.1 million people.[14][15]

On 20 July 1969, an estimated 530 million people watched the first humans ever to walk on the surface of the moon (this constituted around 14% of total population of the world at the time),[16][17] despite the fact that the first moonwalk took place in the middle of the night in Europe (at 02:56 in Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom and 03:56 in France, Germany, Italy and Spain) and it was not broadcast at all in the Eastern Bloc[18] except Romania[19] and Poland.[20]

The 2011 Cricket World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan is reported to have been watched by about 1 billion people by The Guardian,[21] which if accurate would mean it had more than twice as many viewers as the final, which was watched by 400 million people based on the available data.[22]

The annual Eurovision Song Contest is reported to have between 100 and 600 million viewers, depending on the source.[23][24]

Many events have been reported as been watched by large global audiences. However, most reported figures do not have reliable sources, and may have been estimated by the events' promoters, sometimes before the actual airing, to boost viewership. These over-estimates occurred at the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer,[25][26]) the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales[27][28][29] Michael Jackson's memorial service,[30] and the 2010 rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners.[31] A satellite broadcast for an Elvis Presley show live from Hawaii, titled Aloha from Hawaii "Aloha From Hawaii Demystifying an Elvis Myth".  The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was predicted to draw two billion viewers,[32] but only drew a verified audience of 161 million viewers from 47% of the world population.[22]

National[edit]

Australia[edit]

Due to major changes in the recording and reporting of television ratings during the 1900s, the ratings prior to 2001 and ratings after this date cannot be compared exactly, due to a different measurement system conducted by two different companies. In Australia, when talking about the most watched television broadcasts, it is common to only compare programs airing since 2001.

Most watched broadcasts since 2001[edit]

Rank Show Number of Viewers Date Network
1 2005 Australian Open – Men's Singles Final 4,045,001 2005 Seven Network
2 2003 Rugby World Cup Final 4,016,000 2003 Seven Network
3 2013 State of Origin series - Game 1 3,973,000 5 June 2013 Nine Network
4 MasterChef Australia (season 2) – finale challenge 3,962,000 25 July 2010 Network Ten
5 MasterChef Australia (season 1) – finale challenge 3,560,000 19 July 2009 Network Ten
6 2006 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony 3,560,000 2006 Nine Network
7 2005 AFL Grand Final (Sydney Swans v West Coast Eagles) 3,386,000 2005 Network Ten
8 Australian Idol: Final Verdict 3,344,000 2004 Network Ten
9 The Block (season 4): Winner Announced 3,289,000 2011 Nine Network
10 The Voice (Australia series 1) 3,238,000 2012 Nine Network

The following is a table of the most watched broadcasts of all time, however it should be noted it is only an approximation using data from two different agencies and measuring systems (Nielsen Corporation and OzTAM), based on proportion of homes only in Sydney and Melbourne.[33]

Rank Show Date Network
1 Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales 1997 ABC, Seven Network, Nine Network, Ten Network
2 Wedding of Charles and Diana 1981 ABC, Seven Network, Nine Network, Ten Network
3 2000 Sydney Olympics closing ceremony 2000 Seven Network
4 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony 2000 Seven Network
5 Wedding of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge 2011 ABC, Seven Network, Nine Network, Ten Network
6 1984 Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony 1984 Ten Network
7 The World of the Seekers 1968 Ten Network
8 Boxing: Rose v Rudkin 1969 Nine Network
9 The Sound of Music 1977 Nine Network
10 Roots mini-series 1977 Ten Network

Brazil[edit]

Rank Show Episode Rating Share Date Channel
1 Roque Santeiro Episode 209
96[34]
100% 22 February 1986 Rede Globo
2 Vale Tudo Episode 203
86[35]
96% (projection) 6 January 1989 Rede Globo
3 Tieta Episode 105
78
31 March 1990 Rede Globo

Canada[edit]

The most watched television broadcast in Canadian history was the Gold medal game of the men's hockey tournament at the 2010 Winter Olympics, played between the United States and Canada at General Motors Place (renamed "Canada Hockey Place" for the Olympics) in Vancouver. A confirmed 16.6 million Canadians watched the whole game, roughly one-half of the country's entire population.[36] A groundbreaking 26.5 million Canadians watched some part of the game, over 80 percent of the country's 34-million-person population.[37] According to multiple sources, 13.3 million Canadians watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, which was the previous record.[38]

Many believed the final game of the 1972 Summit Series had up to 18 million viewers, but this was not so; only 4.3 million people watched it. 10.3 million people watched the ice hockey gold medal final of the 2002 Winter Olympics.[39]

China[edit]

China Central Television's Spring Festival Gala has regularly attracted between 700 million[40] to one billion viewers annually.[41]

The CCTV's main evening news broadcast Xinwen Lianbo has a daily audience of around 135 million people,[42] and it is also one of the most expensive shows in the world per advertising spots, with its 2013 advertising slots selling for a record of 5.4 billion yuan.[42]

Germany[edit]

Rank Show Episode Number of Viewers Share Date Network
1 2014 FIFA World Cup Germany vs Argentina (final) 34,650,000 86.3% 13 July 2014 Das Erste
2 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil vs Germany (semi-final) 32,570,000 87.8% 8 July 2014 ZDF
3 2010 FIFA World Cup Germany vs Spain (semi-final) 31,100,000 1, 4 83.2% 7 July 2010 Das Erste
4 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany vs Italy (semi-final) 29,660,000 1, 2, 3 84.1% 4 July 2006 ZDF
5 UEFA Euro 2008 Germany vs Turkey (semi-final) 29,460,000 81.6% 25 June 2008 ZDF
6 2010 FIFA World Cup Ghana vs. Germany (group game) 29,190,000 1, 4 79.7% 23 June 2010 Das Erste
7 1990 FIFA World Cup West Germany vs Argentina (final) 28,660,000 87.9% 9 July 1990 Das Erste
8 UEFA Euro 1996 Germany vs Czech Republic (final) 28,440,000 76.3% 30 June 1996 ZDF
9 2014 FIFA World Cup Germany vs Algeria (Round of 16) 28,210,000 85.1% 30 June 2014 ZDF
10 UEFA Euro 2008 Austria vs Germany (group game) 28,040,000 1, 5 76.9% 16 June 2008 ZDF
11 UEFA Euro 2012 Germany vs Italy (semi-final) 27,980,000 6 76.8% 28 June 2012 Das Erste
12 The Black Forest Clinic "Die Schuldfrage" (engl.: The question of guilt) 27,970,000 17 November 1985 ZDF
13 2010 FIFA World Cup Germany vs Australia (group game) 27,910,000 1, 4 74.4% 13 June 2010 Das Erste
14 UEFA Euro 2008 Portugal vs Germany (quarter-final) 27,700,000 1, 5 78.7% 19 June 2008 Das Erste
15 UEFA Euro 2012 Denmark vs Germany (group game) 27,650,000 74.2% 13 June 2012 ZDF
16 2014 FIFA World Cup USA vs Germany (group game) 27,250,000 84.2% 26 June 2014 ZDF
  1. Public viewing areas were not included in these ratings.
  1. The approximated rating is about 60 to 70 million.[43]
  1. The extra time reached even 31.31 million viewers.[44]
  1. Summary of the 2010 FIFA World Cup ratings.
  1. Summary of the UEFA Euro 2008 ratings.
  1. Summary of the UEFA Euro 2012 Germany vs Italy semi-final game.
  • Note: The UEFA Euro 2008 final is missing from the list, because the lengthy trophy presentation was included into the official ratings. The game itself was watched by 28.05 million viewers.[45]

New Zealand[edit]

The following are the most watched television programmes or events in New Zealand since 1 January 1995, according to Nielsen TAM ratings.[46][47]

Rank Programme/Event Number of viewers
Date Network
1 2011 Rugby World Cupfinal between New Zealand and France 2,037,000 23 October 2011 TV One / TV3 / Sky / Māori
2 2011 Rugby World Cup – semifinal between New Zealand and Australia 2,024,000 16 October 2011 TV One / TV3 / Sky / Māori
3 2011 Rugby World Cup – opening game between New Zealand and Tonga 1,930,000 9 September 2011 TV One / Sky / Māori
4 Boxing match between David Tua and Lennox Lewis 1,841,000 12 November 2000 TV3
5 One News special – Death of Diana, Princess of Wales 1,703,000 31 August 1997 TV One
6 2000 Summer Olympics – opening ceremony 1,654,000 15 September 2000 TV One
7 One News special – Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales 1,650,000 6 September 1997 TV One
8 2011 Rugby World Cup – quarter-final between New Zealand and Argentina 1,624,000 9 October 2011 TV One / TV3 / Sky / Māori
9 2003 Rugby World Cupfinal between England and Australia 1,605,000 22 November 2003 TV One
10 Martin Bashir's interview with Diana, Princess of Wales 1,517,000 21 November 1995 TV2
11 2011 Rugby World Cup – opening ceremony 1,499,000 9 September 2011 TV One
12 2007 Rugby World Cup – quarter-final between New Zealand and France 1,410,000 7 October 2007 TV3

Philippines[edit]

AGB Nielsen Philippines debuted in 1992 as the country's first media research organization to operate in the Philippines. In October 2006, AGB Nielsen Philippines formed its first ever nationwide television audience measurement system - the so-called "NUTAM" or "National Urban Television Audience Measurement", which uses a panel size of 1,980 homes based solely in urban areas that represent 34.4 million individuals (95% of the total urban Philippine population, and 57% of the total Philippine TV viewing population, and less than 35% of the total current Philippine population).

In 2009, Kantar Media Philippines started its media research operations, and utilizes a panel size of 2,609 homes based in both rural and urban areas that represent 75 million individuals (100% of the total Philippine TV viewing population, and less than 75% of the total current Philippine population). By the dawn of the 2010s, it was regarded that the AGB Nielsen tallies (which has a large base from the long-regarded viewer-rich Mega Manila region) favor Philippines' second-ranked GMA Network in the ratings, while Kantar Media tallies (which has a strong hold on the television viewers in the expanding populations of Visayas and Mindanao) consistently favor Philippines' top-ranked and largest media conglomerate, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation (previously favored by AGB Nielsen tallies in the 1990s).

AGB Nielsen Philippines[edit]

The following table shows the all-time highest television ratings in the Philippines as tallied by AGB Nielsen Philippines since 1992. Take note, however, that the ratings are from a single highest recorded episode of the show (in the case of the TV series) and it is not the average over-all ratings for the whole season/series.

AGB Nielsen Philippines - National Urban Television Audience Measurement (NUTAM) All Time Highest Ratings from Philippine Television Broadcasts Since 1992[48][49]
Rank Network Program Year Rating
1 ABS-CBN Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales 2005 83.5%
2 ABS-CBN Rosalinda 1999 69.8%
3 ABS-CBN Esperanza 1997 67.0%
4 ABS-CBN Pangako Sa 'Yo 2002 64.9%
5 ABS-CBN Meteor Garden 2003 63.8%
6 ABS-CBN Miss Universe 1994 1994 62.5%
7 RPN Marimar 1996 61.7%
8 ABS-CBN María Mercedes 1996 59.7%
9 RPN Miss Universe 1999 1999 58.4%
10 GMA Bubble Gang 1997 57.6%
11 ABS-CBN Maalaala Mo Kaya 1992 57.3%
12 ABS-CBN Balitang K 1998 56.6%
13 ABS-CBN Wansapanataym 1997 56.4%
14 ABS-CBN TV Patrol 1996 56.0%
15 GMA i-Witness 1999 55.3%
16 ABS-CBN Magandang Gabi, Bayan 2000 55.0%
17 ABS-CBN Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar Larios 2006 54.4%
18 GMA Darna 2005 54.3%
19 ABS-CBN Mula Sa Puso 1997 53.7%
20 RPN Manny Pacquiao vs. Marco Antonio Barrera 2003 52.9%
21 ABC 2005 Southeast Asian Games 2005 52.6%
21 GMA-7 MariMar 2007 52.6%
22 ABS-CBN Basta't Kasama Kita 2003 52.5%
23 ABS-CBN Star Circle Teen Quest 2004 52.3%
24 ABS-CBN F.L.A.M.E.S 1996 51.9%
25 GMA Encantadia 2005 51.7%
26 ABS-CBN Marina 2004 50.8%
27 ABS-CBN Pinoy Big Brother 2005 50.4%
27 GMA Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto 2009 50.4%
28 GMA Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao 2009 49.8%
29 GMA Manny Pacquiao vs. Marco Antonio Barrera II 2007 49.5%
29 ABS-CBN Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales III 2006 49.5%
30 ABS-CBN Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas 2003 49.3%

Kantar Media Philippines[edit]

Kantar Media Philippines officially released its national television audience measurement data on January 2009 via Taylor Nelson Sofres/TNS. Since then, these are the shows that posted an all time highest television ratings in the Philippines. Still, take note that the ratings are from a single highest recorded episode of the show (in the case of the TV series) and it is not the average over-all ratings for the whole season/series.

Kantar Media/TNS Philippines Nationwide Urban and Rural Television Audience Measurement - All Time Highest Ratings from Philippine Television Broadcasts Since January 2009
Rank Network Program Rating
1 ABS-CBN May Bukas Pa 47.3%
2 ABS-CBN Tayong Dalawa 45.8%
2 GMA Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto 45.8%
3 ABS-CBN Walang Hanggan 45.4%
4 ABS-CBN Agua Bendita 44.9%
5 ABS-CBN TV Patrol 44.8%
6 ABS-CBN Pinoy Big Brother: Double Up 44.6%
7 ABS-CBN Mara Clara (2010) 43.4%
8 ABS-CBN Pilipinas Got Talent (Season 1) 43.3%
9 ABS-CBN Dahil May Isang Ikaw 42.9%
9 ABS-CBN Ina, Kapatid, Anak 42.9%
10 ABS-CBN Kung Tayo'y Magkakalayo 42.7%
11 ABS-CBN Juan dela Cruz 42.6%
12 GMA Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao 41.9%
13 GMA Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito 41.5%
14 ABS-CBN I Love Betty La Fea 41.3%
14 GMA Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey 41.3%
15 ABS-CBN Maalaala Mo Kaya 40.9%
16 ABS-CBN Princess and I 40.6%
17 ABS-CBN Only You (Philippine Version) 40.0%
18 ABS-CBN Noah 39.9%
19 ABS-CBN Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin 39.1%
20 GMA Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III 38.9%
21 ABS-CBN 100 Days to Heaven 38.7%
22 ABS-CBN Got to Believe 38.6%[50]
23 ABS-CBN Katorse 38.4%
24 ABS-CBN Pilipinas Got Talent (Season 2) 38.2%
25 ABS-CBN The Voice Kids (Philippines season 1) 37.7%[51]
26 GMA Darna (2009) 37.5%
27 ABS-CBN Wansapanataym 37.3%
28 ABS-CBN Mutya 36.7%
28 ABS-CBN Dyosa 36.6%
29 ABS-CBN The Legal Wife 36.2%[52]
30 ABS-CBN Rated K 36.0%

Portugal[edit]

[53][54][55]

Rank Show Episode Rating Share Date Channel
1 UEFA Euro 2004 Portugal vs The Netherlands (semi-final) 40.1 85.4% 30 June 2004 RTP1
2 UEFA Euro 2012 Portugal vs Spain (semi-final) 39.0 74.8% 27 June 2012 SIC
3 UEFA Euro 2004 Portugal vs England (quarter-final) 39.0 85.1% 24 June 2004 RTP1
4 UEFA Euro 2012 Portugal vs The Netherlands (group stage match) 38.1 73.4% 17 June 2012 TVI
5 2014 FIFA World Cup United States vs Portugal (group stage match) 37.8 75.4% 22 June 2014 RTP1
6 UEFA Euro 2004 Portugal vs Greece (final) 37.7 89.7% 4 July 2004 RTP1
7 2006 FIFA World Cup Portugal vs France (semi-final) 37.2 82.3% 5 July 2006 SIC
8 A Próxima Vítima The Last Episode 37.1 80.2% 19 January 1996 SIC
9 UEFA Euro 2012 Czech Republic vs Portugal (quarter-final) 36.1 71.7% 21 June 2012 RTP1
10 UEFA Euro 2004 Russia vs Portugal (group stage match) 35.5 81.4% 16 June 2004 SIC
11 UEFA Euro 2004 Spain vs Portugal (group stage match) 34.9 83.2% 20 June 2004 TVI
12 2006 FIFA World Cup Portugal vs The Netherlands (round of 16) 34.9 80.7% 25 June 2006 SIC
13 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Second Round Sweden vs Portugal (second leg playoff match) 34.1 62.2% 19 November 2013 RTP1
14 UEFA Europa League SL Benfica vs Chelsea FC (final) 33.8 62.3% 16 May 2013 SIC
15 2006 FIFA World Cup Angola vs Portugal (group stage match) 32.8 80.9% 11 June 2006 SIC
16 UEFA Euro 2012 Germany vs Portugal (group stage match) 32.4 68.3% 9 June 2012 RTP1
17 UEFA Champions League Monaco vs Porto (final) 31.7 70.5% 26 May 2004 RTP1
18 UEFA Europa League Sevilha vs Benfica (final) 31.1 61.4% 14 May 2014 SIC
19 UEFA Champions League Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid (final) 30.8 64,3% 24 May 2014 TVI
20 2006 FIFA World Cup Portugal vs Iran 30.4 83.1% 17 June 2006 RTP1
21 UEFA Europa League Juventus vs Benfica (semi-final) 30.4 58,9% 1 May 2014 SIC
22 Big Brother Portugal Live eviction show 30.2 72.5% 26 December 2000 TVI

Sweden[edit]

Statistics from Mediamätning Skandinavien.[56]

Most watched programmes per year[edit]

Year Programme Date Number of Viewers (millions) Network
2000 Melodifestivalen 2000 10 March 4.175 SVT2
2001 Melodifestivalen 2001 23 February 3.84 SVT1
2002 Melodifestivalen 2002 1 March 3.72 SVT1
2003 Melodifestivalen 2003 15 March 3.815 SVT1
2004 Melodifestivalen 2004 20 March 4.105 SVT1
2005 Melodifestivalen 2005 12 March 4.055 SVT1
2006 Melodifestivalen 2006 18 March 4.240 SVT1
2007 Melodifestivalen 2007 10 March 3.975 SVT1
2008 Melodifestivalen 2008 15 March 4.045 SVT1
2009 Melodifestivalen 2009 14 March 3.59 SVT1
2010 Melodifestivalen 2010 13 March 3.87 SVT1
2011 Melodifestivalen 2011 12 March 3.67 SVT1
2012 Melodifestivalen 2012 10 March 4.11 SVT1
2013 Melodifestivalen 2013 9 March 4.15 SVT1

Most watched sport events per year[edit]

Year Programme Date Number of Viewers (millions) Network
2000 UEFA Euro 2000 Final (FRA–ITA) 2 July 2.34 SVT2
2001 2001 World Men's Handball Championship Final (FRA–SWE) 4 February 2.635 TV4
2002 2002 European Men's Handball Championship Final (SWE–GER) 3 February 3.06 TV4
2003 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup Final (GER–SWE) 12 October 3.525 TV4
2004 UEFA Euro 2004 (SWE–DEN) 22 June 3.796 TV4
2005 2005 World Championships in Athletics 7 August 4.055 TV4
2006 2006 Men's Olympic Ice Hockey Final (SWE–FIN) 26 February 3.52 SVT2
2007 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2007 – Women's slalom 16 February 2.23 SVT1
2008 UEFA Euro 2008 (GRE–SWE) 10 June 3.03 TV4
2009 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Group 1 (DEN–SWE) 10 October 1.805 Kanal 5
2010 2010 FIFA World Cup Final (NED–ESP) 11 July 2.66 SVT1
2011 2011 IIHF World Championship Final (SWE–FIN) 15 May 2.035 TV3
2012 UEFA Euro 2012 (UKR–SWE) 11 June 2.94 SVT1
2013 2013 IIHF World Championship Final (SWE–SUI) 19 May 2.915 TV4

United Kingdom[edit]

Most watched programmes[edit]

The following is a list of most watched programmes, excluding sporting events and news coverage. The mid-1980s introduction of in-week repeat showings accounts for six of the top ten programmes. On this measure, the 1996 Christmas edition of Only Fools and Horses is the most watched non-repeated, non-documentary programme of all time in the UK. It is the third most watched programme of all time on a single channel after the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony and the wedding of The Princess Anne in 1973 (see below).

  • Post-1981 figures verified by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB)
  • Pre-1981 figures supplied by the British Film Institute
Rank Show Episode Number of viewers
(millions)
Date Network
1 EastEnders Den divorces Angie. 30.15[57] 25 December 1986* BBC One
2 EastEnders Michelle Fowler reveals she's pregnant. 28.00[58] 1 January 1987* BBC One
3 Coronation Street Hilda Ogden leaves 26.65[58] 25 December 1987* ITV (Granada)
4 Only Fools and Horses "Time on Our Hands" 24.35[59] 29 December 1996 BBC One
5 EastEnders 24.30[60] 2 January 1992* BBC One
6 Royal Variety Performance 1965 Shirley Bassey, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore 24.20[61] 14 November 1965 ITV (ATV)
7 EastEnders 24.15[62] 7 January 1988* BBC One
8 To the Manor Born Series 1 Finale 23.95[63] 11 November 1979 BBC One
9 Miss World 1967 23.76[61] 19 November 1967 BBC One
10 EastEnders 23.55[64] 26 December 1985* BBC One
11 Panorama Princess Diana 22.78[65] 20 November 1995 BBC One
12 Royal Variety Performance 1975 22.66[63] 16 November 1975 ITV (ATV)
13 This Is Your Life Lord Mountbatten 22.22[63] 27 April 1977 ITV (Thames)
14 Sunday Night at the London Palladium 21.89[61] 3 December 1967 ITV (ATV)
15 The Benny Hill Show 21.67[63] 24 March 1971 ITV (Thames)
=16 Dallas J. R. Ewing's shooter is revealed 21.60[66] 22 November 1980 BBC One
=16 Coronation Street 21.60[60] 8 January 1992 ITV (Granada)
18 Eurovision Song Contest 1973 21.56[63] 7 April 1973 BBC One
19 Steptoe and Son 21.54[61] 18 February 1964 BBC One
20 The Mike Yarwood Show Mike Yarwood Christmas Show 21.40[63] 25 December 1977 BBC One
=20 Coronation Street 21.40[64] 2 Jan 1985 ITV (Granada)
22 Coronation Street 21.36[61] 2 December 1964 ITV (Granada)
23 Only Fools and Horses "If They Could See Us Now" 21.35[67] 25 December 2001 BBC One
24 Morecambe and Wise Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show 21.30[63] 25 December 1977 BBC One
  • Entries with an asterisk denote aggregated figure with repeat showing.

Most watched films[edit]

The following is a list of most watched films by total number of viewers;[68] dates are when the films were broadcast, not necessarily when they were produced.)

Rank Film Number of viewers
(millions)
Date Network
1 Live and Let Die 23.50 20 January 1980 ITV
2 Jaws 23.25 8 October 1981 ITV
3 The Spy Who Loved Me 22.90 28 March 1982 ITV
4 Diamonds Are Forever 22.15 15 March 1981 ITV
5 Crocodile Dundee 21.75 25 December 1989 BBC1

Most watched special events[edit]

The majority of special events attracting large audiences are often carried on more than one channel. The most watched programme of all time on a single channel is the 1973 wedding ceremony of HRH The Princess Anne, shown only on BBC1.

Rank Episode Number of viewers
(millions)
Date Network
1 1966 FIFA World Cup Final 32.30[61] 30 July 1966 BBC One/ITV
2 Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales 32.10[60] 6 September 1997 BBC One/ITV
3 Royal Family (documentary) 30.69[61] 21 June 1969 and 28 June 1969 BBC One/ITV
4 Apollo 13 splashdown 28.60[63] 17 April 1970 BBC One/ITV
5 FA Cup Final replay: Chelsea vs. Leeds 28.49[63] 29 April 1970 BBC One/ITV
6 Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer 28.40[66] 29 July 1981 BBC One/ITV
7 Wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips 27.60[63] 14 November 1973 BBC One
8 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony 24.46[69] 12 August 2012 BBC One
9 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony 24.24[70] 27 July 2012 BBC One
10 JFK Assassination – News Broadcast 24.15[61] 22 November 1963 BBC One/ITV
  • Note- The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (29 April 2011) received a total audience peak of 26 million viewers, but this is a combined figure aggregated from the ten different channels that broadcast the ceremony. The highest figures of these were 13.59 million on BBC1, with an extra 4.02 million watching on ITV.[71]

Most watched programmes per year[edit]

Year Programme Date Number of viewers
(millions)
Network
1981 Film: Jaws 8 October 1981 23.30[72] ITV
1982 Film: The Spy Who Loved Me 28 March 1982 22.90[73] ITV
1983 Coronation Street 23 February 1983 18.45[74] ITV
1984 Royal Variety Performance 1984 25 November 1984 20.55[75] BBC One
1985 EastEnders 26 December 1985 23.55[64] BBC One
1986 EastEnders 25 December 1986 30.15[57] BBC One
1987 EastEnders 1 January 1987 28.00[58] BBC One
1988 EastEnders 5 February 1988 24.15[76] BBC One
1989 Film: "Crocodile" Dundee 25 December 1989 21.77[77] BBC One
1990 Neighbours (Episode 837) 26 January 1990 21.16[78] BBC One
1991 Coronation Street 25 November 1991 20.45[79] ITV
1992 Coronation Street 22 January 1992 22.45[80] ITV
1993 Coronation Street 22 March 1993 20.73[81] ITV
1994 Torvill and Dean – Olympic Ice Dance Championship 21 February 1994 23.95[82] BBC One
1995 Panorama Special: Princess Diana 20 November 1995 22.78[65] BBC One
1996 Only Fools and Horses 29 December 1996 24.35[59] BBC One
1997 Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales 6 September 1997 19.29[83] BBC One
1998 1998 FIFA World Cup: England v Argentina 30 June 1998 23.78[84] ITV
1999 Coronation Street 7 March 1999 19.82[85] ITV
2000 Coronation Street 3 January 2000 18.96[86] ITV
2001 Only Fools & Horses 25 December 2001 21.35[67] BBC One
2002 Only Fools & Horses 25 December 2002 17.40[87] BBC One
2003 Coronation Street 24 February 2003 19.43[88] ITV
2004 UEFA Euro 2004: England v Portugal 24 June 2004 20.66[89] BBC One
2005 Coronation Street 21 February 2005 14.36[90] ITV
2006 2006 FIFA World Cup: England v Sweden 20 June 2006 18.46[91] ITV
2007 EastEnders 25 December 2007 14.38[92] BBC One
2008 Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death 25 December 2008 16.15[93] BBC One
2009 Britain's Got Talent Final Result 30 May 2009 18.29[94] ITV
2010 The X Factor Results 12 December 2010 16.55[95] ITV
2011 The Royal Wedding 29 April 2011 13.59[96] BBC One
2012 2012 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony 12 August 2012 24.46[97] BBC One
2013 New Year's Eve Fireworks 31 December 2013 13.52[97] BBC One
2014 2014 FIFA World Cup Final: Germany v Argentina 13 July 2014 14.92[97] BBC One


  • Note - The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (29 April 2011) received a total audience peak of 26 million viewers, but this is a combined figure aggregated from the ten different channels that broadcast the ceremony. The highest figures of these were 13.59 million on BBC1, followed by 4.02 million watching on ITV.

United States[edit]

Most watched TV series finales[edit]

The finale is not necessarily a show's most watched episode. Notable examples include NBC's Friends, which had 52.9 million viewers for a 1996 episode (the country's highest rated post-Super Bowl TV series episode, watched by more than 46% of the total U.S. television viewers for that year) that followed the Super Bowl XXX live broadcast of that network, and is more than the 2004 series finale had (52.46 million viewers), and CBS' Dallas, viewed by more than 90 million American viewers after the network's November 21, 1980 primetime telecast of the resolution episode of the internationally known 'Who Shot J.R.' cliffhanger (the second highest rated single television broadcast in US history, watched by 53.3% of American households and more than 76% of the total US television viewers for that year), almost thrice as many viewers as there were for the 1991 series finale (33.3 million viewers).

Fox's live telecast of Super Bowl XLVIII currently stands as the country's most watched single television broadcast, with 111.5 million viewers.[98] During this broadcast, the halftime show featuring Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers was watched by 115.3 million viewers.[98] The broadcast also reached a current all-time high of 167-million viewership mark in several portions of the the conclusion of the February 2, 2014 Super Bowl telecast. Moreover, Super Bowl telecasts account for 22 of the most watched television broadcasts based on overall viewership in U.S. television history.[99] Additionally, the National Football League or NFL Season is watched since 2012 by at least 200 million individuals in the United States, accounting for the largest viewership for any television event in the country (representing 69% of the American households and more than 80% of the total US television viewers since 2012).

The highest rated single television broadcast in US history is the 150-minute long final episode of M*A*S*H* (the country's first ever and, to date only, regular primetime television series to be watched by more than 100 million American viewers for an episode), transmitted on primetime by CBS on February 28, 1983, viewed at a peak conclusion by 125 million American viewers (or 60.2% of American households, at least 77% of the total US television viewers, and more than half of U.S. 1983 population of 234 million people). When TV miniseries are taken into the Nielsen tallies, ABC's Roots posted the second most watched series finale in US history, watched on January 30, 1977 by 100 million viewers (51.1% of American households and more than 71% of the total US television viewers that year), but attracted the largest viewership in U.S. television history - a record currently standing at 140 million American viewers for its 8-part installment in January 1977 (more than half of the U.S. 1977 population of 221 million during its airing).

NBC contains 3 of the 5 most watched television series finales in U.S. history to date (all from the sitcom genre, and all behind the 1983 M.A.S.H. final episode) - the May 21, 1993 broadcast of the series finale of Cheers (the country's highest rated sitcom program, and second highest rated series finale on US television, watched by more than 93 million American viewers - almost 46% of American households and more than 64% of the total US television viewers that year), telecast of the final episode of Seinfeld in May 14, 1998, and the May 6, 2004 primetime broadcast of Friends final episode.

Rank Series Episode title Number of Viewers
(in millions)
Percent of Households Share Date Network
1 M*A*S*H "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" 105.9 60.2% 77% 28 Feb 1983 CBS
2 Cheers "One for the Road" 84.4a[100] 45.5% 64%[101] 20 May 1993 NBC
3 Seinfeld "The Finale" 76.3[100] 41.3% 58% 14 May 1998 NBC
4 Friends "The Last One" 52.46[100][102] 29.8% 43% 6 May 2004 NBC
5 Magnum, P.I. "Resolutions" 50.7 32.0% 48% 8 May 1988 CBS
6 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson N/A 50.0[100] N/A N/A 22 May 1992 NBC
7 The Cosby Show "And So We Commence" 44.4[100] 28.0% 45% 30 April 1992 NBC
8 All in the Family "Too Good Edith" 40.2[100][103] 26.6% 43% 8 April 1979 CBS
9 Family Ties "Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore" 36.3 20.8% 35% 14 May 1989 NBC
10 Home Improvement "The Long and Winding Road" 35.5[104] 21.6%[105] 43%[104] 25 May 1999 ABC
11 Frasier "Goodnight, Seattle" 33.7[102] 16.3% 25% 13 May 2004 NBC
12 Dallas "Conundrum" 33.3 22.0% 38% 3 May 1991 CBS
13 Everybody Loves Raymond "The Finale" 32.9[102] 20.2% 29% 16 May 2005 CBS
14 Star Trek: The Next Generation "All Good Things..." 31.0[106] 17.4% 24% 23 May 1994 Syndication
  1. a The number of viewers for M*A*S*H (105.9 million) and Cheers (80.4 million) are the numbers most commonly reported. M*A*S*H has also been reported at 121.6 million viewers and Cheers has been reported at 93.1 million viewers.[101][107] For M*A*S*H, 121.6 million represents the total audience who watched at least six minutes and the 105.9 million represents the viewers who watched the average minute.[108] Regular episodes of M*A*S*H were thirty minutes long, but the final episode was two hours and thirty minutes.

Most watched U.S. TV series[edit]

This table lists all the TV shows with the highest average household Nielsen rating for each television season.[109][110][111][112]

Fox's American Idol holds the record for most consecutive seasons at No. 1, with eight. It is also the first ever television series of reality singing competition genre to take the No.1 position in the Nielsen annual primetime television ratings. Take note, however, that American Idol usually airs two episodes a week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays from its inception in 2002 to 2010, and Wednesdays and Thursdays starting 2011); for the 2003–2004 season, only the Tuesday (or competition stage) show was ranked No. 1, and for that television season, American Idol as a whole placed second (potentially giving the top spot to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation from CBS, if the ratings of American Idol for that year had been summarized as only 1 day-per-week broadcast format). The 2-day weekly format of the live telecasts of American Idol only applies during the finals stage of the competition program. From 2005 to 2011, the whole show was No. 1 for only seven consecutive seasons, but still ranked No.1 overall in the 18-49 demographic for eight consecutive seasons.[113]

CBS' All in the Family, and NBC's The Cosby Show share second place, ranked No. 1 overall each for 5 consecutive seasons, from 1972 to 1976, and 1986 to 1990, respectively. NBC's ER and Friends remained the latest primetime programs in the United States of medical drama and sitcom genres to rank first in the Nielsen annual ratings, back in 1999 and 2002, respectively. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? remains the latest primetime program from ABC to lead the Nielsen annual primetime television ratings, back in 2000. Meanwhile, NBC Sunday Night Football debuted in 2012 as the country's first ever regular primetime sports program to rank No.1 in the Nielsen annual primetime television ratings.

     The program with the all-time highest average rating is in bold text
     Sports programs have italicized rating numbers
     Two or more programs tie for highest average Nielsen rating in the same season
     The program with the all-time longest winning streak in Nielsen ratings based on number of consecutive seasons

Season Program Network Rating
1950–1951 Texaco Star Theater
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
1960–1961 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
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
1980–1981 Dallas 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 Roseanne
ABC
23.1
The Cosby Show
NBC
1990–1991 Cheers 21.3
1991–1992 60 Minutes
CBS
21.9
1992–1993
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? — Tuesdays
ABC
18.6
2000–2001 Survivor: The Australian Outback
CBS
17.4
2001–2002 Friends
NBC
15.0
2002–2003 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
CBS
16.3
2003–2004 American Idol — Tuesdays (Competition)
FOX
14.2
2004–2005 American Idol — Overall Season 15.2
2005–2006 17.6
2006–2007 17.3
2007–2008 16.1
2008–2009 14.4
2009–2010 13.9
2010–2011 14.8
2011–2012 NBC Sunday Night Football
NBC
12.9
2012–2013 NCIS
CBS
12.7
2013–2014 NBC Sunday Night Football
NBC
12.8

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