List of most watched television broadcasts
The following content contains the tentative list of the most watched television broadcasts around the world in selected countries, with the corresponding peak viewership (or ratings share) records, the corresponding year of such broadcast, and the mentioned media research organizations tallying nationwide viewership records. Take note, however, that the most watched television broadcast in any of the following nations can also be broadcast simultaneously in other foreign territories for a single year, and may rank into the most watched television broadcasts for such nations as well.
- 1 Overview
- 2 National
- 2.1 Australia
- 2.2 Brazil
- 2.3 Canada
- 2.4 China
- 2.5 Germany
- 2.6 Ireland
- 2.7 Philippines
- 2.8 Portugal
- 2.9 Sweden
- 2.10 United Kingdom
- 2.11 United States
- 3 References
On 20 July 1969, an estimated 530 million people watched the live global broadcast of 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), 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, the Netherlands and Spain) and it was not broadcast at all in the Eastern Bloc except Romania and Poland. 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, which was more than twice as many viewers as the final, which was watched by 400 million people.
According to Telegraph.co.uk, the 6 hour 45 minutes long 2015 Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan played on 15 February 2015 was seen by nearly 1 billion people. While on digital platform, the cricket match was seen by nearly 25 million viewers from India creating a new record. 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). Six hundred million watched some part of the game (the "reach"). In 2010 another independent firm estimated that 322 million viewers watched the 2006 final on average, with a reach of 638 million. None of these figures match the estimate by event organizers FIFA, a "global cumulative audience" of 715.1 million people.
U.S. television programming remains one of the most popular forms of entertainment worldwide. This trend was initiated by U.S.-made soap operas and sitcoms such as Dallas, M*A*S*H, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld and Friends, which aired from the early 1980s until the mid-2000s, and then in the late 2000s and 2010s by U.S. medical dramas and police procedurals such as House, CSI and NCIS franchises. All of these are currently syndicated in more than 100 countries, reaching almost 1 billion viewers around the world, and rank among the most watched television series in the world, extending their dominance to a 3-decade span. The annual Miss Universe pageant, headquartered in the U.S. and broadcast in almost 200 countries and hosted by different selected nations, is said to have regularly attracted almost 700 million viewers and ranks among the all-time most watched regularly scheduled yearend television programs in the world.
Around the same period, the global dominance of U.S. television remains rivaled by European television and telenovelas produced both from Latin America and Asia as of 2010s. The annual Eurovision Song Contest, considered to be one of the world's longest running and most watched reality television franchises, is annually reported to have between 100 and 600 million viewers, depending on the source. Prominent personalities in the 1990s and 2000s such as David Hasselhoff and Mexico's Thalia (currently based in the U.S.) starred in primetime series such as the Las Tres Marias trilogy shows (Maria Mercedes, Marimar and Maria la del Barrio), Rosalinda and Baywatch, which were broadcast to almost 2 billion viewers in about 180 countries and still remained among the world's most watched non-U.S.-produced television series.
The 2008 Summer Olympics boasts the official world record for the largest global viewership, and the highest peak viewer share in the world for a multi-day television broadcast. It is estimated by Nielsen Media Research that between 4.7 billion and 5 billion individual viewers (or around 70% of the world's 7-billion human population) watched some part of the coverage, including its peak final hour of the live broadcast of the closing ceremony in August 2008. Moreover, Idols, airing since its inception in 2001, remains as the international television franchise with the largest collective global viewership in the world to date, shown in versions in over 150 countries worldwide and watched by at least 6.5 billion viewers (more than 90% of the world's 7-billion human population).
In recent decades, majority of the reality television franchises broadcasts and international sporting events (which are broadcast live in several countries, regardless of the origin of the program's transmission) tend to comprise some of the most watched television programs around the world, as tallied by their media research bases.
Most watched broadcasts of all time (Total Viewers)
|1||Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales||1997||ABC, Seven Network, Nine Network, Ten Network|
|2||Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer||1981||ABC, Seven Network, Nine Network, Ten Network|
|3||2000 Summer Olympics closing ceremony||2000||Seven Network|
|4||2000 Summer Olympics opening ceremony||2000||Seven Network|
|5||Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton||2011||ABC, Seven Network, Nine Network, Ten Network|
|6||1984 Summer Olympics opening ceremony||1984||Ten Network|
|7||The World of The Seekers||1968||Ten Network|
|8||Boxing: Lionel Rose v Alan Rudkin||1964||Seven Network|
|9||The Sound of Music||1977||Nine Network|
|10||Roots (miniseries)||1977||Ten Network|
Most viewed broadcasts since 2001 (OzTAM 5 City Metro Average)
The following table is a list of the most viewed programmes based on the OzTAM 5 City Metro Average rating system. It does not include regional numbers and uses the average viewership, not the peak viewership.
|Rank||Show||Number of viewers||Ratings||Year||Network|
|1||2011 British Royal Wedding||6.0 Million||--||2011||ABC, Network 7, Network 9, Network Ten, 7Two|
|2||2005 Australian Open – Men's Singles Final||4.043 Million||29.3||2005||Seven Network|
|3||MasterChef Australia (season 2) – finale challenge||4.029 Million||27.1||2010||Network Ten|
|4||2003 Rugby World Cup Final||4.016 Million||29.7||2003||Seven Network|
|5||MasterChef Australia (season 1) – finale challenge||3.726 Million||25.6||2009||Network Ten|
|6||2006 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony||3.561 Million||25.5||2006||Nine Network|
|7||2005 AFL Grand Final (Sydney Swans v West Coast Eagles)||3.386 Million||24.5||2005||Network Ten|
|8||The Block (season 4): Winner Announced||3.370 Million||21.9||2011||Nine Network|
|9||Australian Idol: Final Verdict||3.344 Million||24.5||2002||Network Ten|
|10||The Voice: Grand Final 2012||3.238 Million||21.2||2012||Nine Network|
|1||Big Brother Brasil||Episode 209||
||100%||22 February 1986||Rede Globo|
|2||Atletico Nacional X Gremio||Copa Libertadores - Final||
||96% (projection)||30 August 1995||Rede Globo|
||—||31 March 1990||Rede Globo|
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. A groundbreaking 26.5 million Canadians watched some part of the game, over 80 percent of the country's 34-million-person population. According to multiple sources, 13.3 million Canadians watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, which was the previous record.
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.
On August 20, 2016, the final concert of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip's 2016 tour, supporting their album Man Machine Poem, was viewed at some point by approximately 11.7 million Canadians--around one-third of the country's population. The concert, which took place in the band's hometown of Kingston, Ontario, is widely believed to be the last show the band will perform, due to lead singer Gord Downie's diagnosis of terminal glioblastoma.
The CCTV's main evening news broadcast Xinwen Lianbo has a daily audience of around 135 million people, 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.
|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" ("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|
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.
A list of most-watched shows in the Republic of Ireland in the 21st century was released in January 2015. The Late Late Toy Show held the top six spots, with the 2014 edition drawing 1,593,000 viewers: over one-third of the country's population. Other high-performing shows were Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, crime drama Love/Hate, Mrs. Brown's Boys, The Sunday Game, UEFA Euro 2012 and the Eurovision Song Contest.
The following table shows the all-time highest rating television shows in Mega Manila as tallied by AGB Nielsen Philippines since 1992. Take note, however, that the ratings are from a mono 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.
|1||ABS-CBN||Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales||2006||83.5%|
|4||ABS-CBN||Pangako Sa 'Yo||2002||64.9%|
|6||ABS-CBN||Miss Universe 1994||1994||62.5%|
|9||RPN||Miss Universe 1999||1999||58.4%|
|11||ABS-CBN||Maalaala Mo Kaya||1992||57.3%|
|16||ABS-CBN||Magandang Gabi, Bayan||2000||55.0%|
|17||ABS-CBN||Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar Larios||2006||54.4%|
|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%|
|22||ABS-CBN||Basta't Kasama Kita||2003||52.5%|
|23||ABS-CBN||Star Circle Teen Quest||2004||52.3%|
|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 2||2007||49.5%|
|29||ABS-CBN||Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales 3||2006||49.5%|
|30||ABS-CBN||Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas||2003||49.3%|
|32||ABS-CBN||Star Circle Quest||2004||48.2%|
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 the 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.
|1||ABS-CBN||May Bukas Pa||47.3%||2010|
|2||ABS-CBN||FPJ's: Ang Probinsyano||46.7%||2016|
|3||ABS-CBN||The Voice Kids||46.3%||2015|
|GMA||Firepower: Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto|
|6||GMA||Vindication: Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley II||45.1%||2014|
|9||ABS-CBN||Pinoy Big Brother: Double Up||44.6%||2010|
|11||ABS-CBN||Pilipinas Got Talent||43.3%||2010|
|12||GMA||Hungry for Glory: Manny Pacquiao vs. Chris Algieri||43.1%||2014|
|13||ABS-CBN||Dahil May Isang Ikaw||42.9%||2010|
|Ina, Kapatid, Anak||2013|
|14||ABS-CBN||Kung Tayo'y Magkakalayo||42.7%||2010|
|15||ABS-CBN||Juan dela Cruz||42.6%||2013|
|17||GMA||The Battle of East and West: Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao||41.9%||2009|
|18||GMA||The Eighth Wonder of the World: Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito||41.5%||2010|
|19||ABS-CBN||I Love Betty La Fea||41.3%||2009|
|GMA||The Event: Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey||2010|
|20||ABS-CBN||Maalaala Mo Kaya||40.9%||2013|
|21||ABS-CBN||Princess and I||40.6%||2010|
|ABS-CBN||PiliPinas Debates 2016 - Luzon leg||40.6%||2016|
|25||ABS-CBN||Pangako Sa 'Yo||39.7%||2015|
|27||ABS-CBN||Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin||39.1%||2011|
|28||GMA||The 25th Round Begins: Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III||38.9%||2011|
|29||ABS-CBN||100 Days to Heaven||38.7%||2011|
|30||ABS-CBN||Got to Believe||38.6%||2013|
|1||UEFA Euro 2004||Portugal vs The Netherlands (semi-final)||40.9||87.2%||30 June 2004||RTP1|
|2||UEFA Euro 2012||Portugal vs Spain (semi-final)||39.5||76.0%||27 June 2012||SIC|
|3||UEFA Euro 2004||Portugal vs England (quarter-final)||39.0||85.1%||24 June 2004||RTP1|
|4||UEFA Euro 2016||Portugal vs Wales (semi-final)||38.4||75.4%||6 July 2016||RTP1|
|4||UEFA Euro 2016||Portugal vs France (final)||38.2||78.1%||10 July 2016||RTP1|
|5||UEFA Euro 2012||Portugal vs The Netherlands (group stage match)||38.1||73.4%||17 June 2012||TVI|
|6||UEFA Euro 2016||Portugal vs France (final)||38||78.2%||10 July 2016||RTP1|
|6||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||UEFA Euro 2016||Poland vs Portugal (quarter-final)||37.4||69.9%||30 June 2016||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 2016||Portugal vs Iceland (group stage match)||35.1||68.6%||14 June 2016||RTP1|
|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||UEFA Euro 2008||Portugal vs Germany (quarter-finals)||34.5||75.6%||19 June 2008||TVI|
|14||2015 Portuguese legislative election||Debate: António Costa vs. Pedro Passos Coelho||34.1||66%||10 September 2015||RTP1, SIC, TVI|
|15||2014 FIFA World Cup qualification||Sweden vs Portugal (second leg playoff match)||34.1||62.2%||19 November 2013||RTP1|
|15||UEFA Europa League||SL Benfica vs Chelsea FC (final)||33.8||62.3%||16 May 2013||SIC|
|16||UEFA Euro 2000||France vs. Portugal (Semi-finals)||33.2||76.7%||28 June 2000||RTP1|
|17||2006 FIFA World Cup||Angola vs Portugal (group stage match)||32.8||80.9%||11 June 2006||SIC|
|18||UEFA Euro 2012||Germany vs Portugal (group stage match)||32.4||68.3%||9 June 2012||RTP1|
|18||UEFA Champions League||Monaco vs Porto (final)||31.7||70.5%||26 May 2004||RTP1|
|18||UEFA Euro 2016||Croatia vs Portugal (Round of 16)||31.3||70%||26 June 2016||RTP1|
|19||UEFA Europa League||Sevilla FC vs SL Benfica (final)||31.1||61.4%||14 May 2014||SIC|
|20||UEFA Champions League||Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid (final)||30.8||64.3%||24 May 2014||TVI|
|21||Terra Nostra||Brazilian telenovela||30.8||64%||11 January 2000||SIC|
|22||2006 FIFA World Cup||Portugal vs Iran||30.4||83.1%||17 June 2006||SIC|
|23||UEFA Europa League||Juventus FC vs SL Benfica (semi-final)||30.4||58.9%||1 May 2014||SIC|
|24||Big Brother Portugal||Live eviction show||30.2||72.5%||26 December 2000||TVI|
|25||UEFA Cup||Sporting CP vs CSKA Moscow (Final)||30.1||68.4%||18 May 2005||RTP1|
|26||Taça de Portugal||SL Benfica vs Sporting CP (Sixth round)||29.9||62.6%||26 January 2005||RTP1|
|27||Torre de Babel||Brazilian telenovela||29.8||77.1%||2 April 1999||SIC|
|28||UEFA Euro 2008||Switzerland vs Portugal||29.8||71.8%||15 June 2008||TVI|
|29||UEFA Cup||Celtic FC vs FC Porto||29.7||67.5%||21 May 2003||SIC|
|30||2006 FIFA World Cup||Germany vs Portugal (Third place play-off)||29.6||78.4%||8 July 2006||SIC|
|31||2006 FIFA World Cup||England vs Portugal (quarter-finals)||29.2||88.1%||1 July 2006||SIC|
|32||UEFA Champions League||Barcelona vs Benfica(quarter-finals)||29.3||65.6%||5 April 2006||RTP1|
|33||2010 FIFA World Cup||Spain vs Portugal (Round of 16)||29.1||75.9%||29 June 2010||RTP1|
|34||Médico de Família||Portuguese TV series||27.9||61.4%||16 March 1999||SIC|
Statistics from Mediamätning Skandinavien.
Most watched programmes per year
|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|
|2014||Kalle Anka och hans vänner||24 December||3.705||SVT1|
|2015||Melodifestivalen 2015||14 March||3.771||SVT1|
Most watched sport events per year
Most watched programmes
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
* denotes aggregated figure with repeat showing.
Most watched films
These are the most watched films by total number of viewers (dates are when the films were broadcast, not necessarily when they were produced).
|Rank||Title||Number of viewers
|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
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 The Princess Anne, shown only on BBC1.
|Rank||Event||Number of viewers
|1||1966 FIFA World Cup Final||32.30||30 July 1966||BBC One/ITV|
|2||Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales||32.10||6 September 1997||BBC One/ITV|
|3||Royal Family (documentary)||30.69||21 June 1969 and 28 June 1969||BBC One/ITV|
|4||Apollo 13 splashdown||28.60||17 April 1970||BBC One/ITV|
|5||1970 FA Cup Final replay||28.49||29 April 1970||BBC One/ITV|
|6||Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer||28.40||29 July 1981||BBC One/ITV|
|7||Wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips||27.60||14 November 1973||BBC One|
|8||2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony||24.46||12 August 2012||BBC One|
|9||2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony||24.24||27 July 2012||BBC One|
|10||JFK Assassination – News Broadcast||24.15||22 November 1963||BBC TV/ITV|
Note: The 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.
Most watched programmes per year
|Year||Programme||Date||Number of viewers
|1981||Film: Jaws||8 October 1981||23.30||ITV|
|1982||Film: The Spy Who Loved Me||28 March 1982||22.90||ITV|
|1983||Coronation Street||23 February 1983||18.45||ITV|
|1984||Royal Variety Performance 1984||25 November 1984||20.55||BBC One|
|1985||EastEnders||26 December 1985||23.55||BBC One|
|1986||EastEnders||25 December 1986||30.15||BBC One|
|1987||EastEnders||1 January 1987||28.00||BBC One|
|1988||EastEnders||7 January 1988||24.15||BBC One|
|1989||Film: "Crocodile" Dundee||25 December 1989||21.77||BBC One|
|1990||Neighbours (Episode 837)||26 February 1990||21.16||BBC One|
|1991||Coronation Street||25 November 1991||20.45||ITV|
|1992||Coronation Street||22 January 1992||20.45||ITV|
|1993||Coronation Street||22 March 1993||20.73||ITV|
|1994||Torvill and Dean – Olympic Ice Dance Championship||21 February 1994||23.95||BBC One|
|1995||Panorama Special: Princess Diana||20 November 1995||22.78||BBC One|
|1996||Only Fools and Horses||29 December 1996||24.35||BBC One|
|1997||Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales||6 September 1997||19.29||BBC One|
|1998||1998 FIFA World Cup: England v Argentina||30 June 1998||23.78||ITV|
|1999||Coronation Street||7 March 1999||19.82||ITV|
|2000||Coronation Street||3 January 2000||18.96||ITV|
|2001||Only Fools and Horses||25 December 2001||21.35||BBC One|
|2002||Only Fools and Horses||25 December 2002||17.40||BBC One|
|2003||Coronation Street||24 February 2003||19.43||ITV|
|2004||UEFA Euro 2004: England v Portugal||24 June 2004||20.66||BBC One|
|2005||Coronation Street||21 February 2005||14.36||ITV|
|2006||2006 FIFA World Cup: England v Sweden||20 June 2006||18.46||ITV|
|2007||EastEnders||25 December 2007||14.38||BBC One|
|2008||Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death||25 December 2008||16.15||BBC One|
|2009||Britain's Got Talent Final Result||30 May 2009||18.29||ITV|
|2010||The X Factor Results||12 December 2010||16.55||ITV|
|2011||The Royal Wedding||29 April 2011||13.59||BBC One1|
|2012||2012 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony||12 August 2012||24.46||BBC One|
|2013||New Year's Eve Fireworks||31 December 2013||13.53||BBC One|
|2014||2014 FIFA World Cup Final: Germany v Argentina||13 July 2014||14.96||BBC One2|
|2015||The Great British Bake Off||7 October 2015||15.05||BBC One|
|2016||UEFA Euro 2016 Final: Portugal v France||10 July 2016||12.27||BBC One3|
- ^1 – The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (29 April 2011) "attracted a consolidated average audience of 26.0 [million] viewers across the ceremony from 11:00am to 12:10pm. This is an aggregated audience across 10 BARB reported channels that followed the events live." The highest figures for individual channels of these were 13.59 million on BBC One, followed by 4.02 million watching on ITV.
- ^2 – The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final was broadcast by both BBC One and ITV. The highest figures were 14.96 million on BBC One, followed by 2.34 million on ITV.
- ^3 – The UEFA Euro 2016 Final was broadcast by both BBC One and ITV. The highest of these figures were 12.27 million on BBC One.
NBC's live telecast of Super Bowl XLIX currently stands as the country's most watched single television broadcast, with 114.4 million viewers. During this broadcast, the halftime show featuring Katy Perry was watched by 118.5 million viewers. The broadcast also reached a current all-time high of 168-million viewership mark in several portions of the conclusion of 1 February 2015 Super Bowl telecast. The previous live telecast of Super Bowl XLV in February 2011 helped Fox become the first ever television network in the United States to be watched by at least 100 million American viewers by average for a single primetime night of programming. Moreover, Super Bowl telecasts account for 23 of the most watched television broadcasts based on overall viewership in U.S. television history. Additionally, the National Football League (or NFL) regular season is watched since 2012 by at least 200 million individuals in the United States, accounting for the largest consistent annual nationwide viewership for any television event in U.S. television history (representing almost 70% of the American households, more than 80% of the total U.S. television viewers, and more than 60% of the maintained 2010s U.S. population of 320 million).
Most watched series finales – Top 15 list
This table lists the 15 most watched U.S. television series finales in history, effective as of the current season. Take note, however, that all the Nielsen ratings for U.S. television series finales broadcast starting 2003 were adjusted from the 2007-2008 season to incorporate both the standard live primetime and time-shifted or delayed DVR viewership figures in the United States only (from the dates of their original series finale runs).
The finale is not necessarily a show's most watched episode. Notable examples include the CBS' Dallas, viewed by about 90 million American viewers after the network's 21 November 1980 primetime telecast of the resolution episode of the internationally known 'Who Shot J.R.' cliffhanger (the second highest rated single television broadcast in U.S. history, watched by 53.3% of American households and more than 76% of the total U.S. television viewers for that year), almost thrice as many viewers as there were for the 1991 series finale (33.3 million viewers).
The highest-rated single television broadcast in U.S. history is the 150-minute-long final episode of M*A*S*H* (which remains the sole regular U.S. primetime television series to be watched by at least 100 million viewers in the United States alone for an episode), transmitted on primetime by CBS on 28 February 1983, viewed at a peak conclusion by 125 million American viewers (or 60.2% of American households and at least 77% of the total U.S. television viewers). When TV miniseries are taken into the Nielsen tallies, ABC's Roots posted the second most watched series finale in U.S. history, watched on 30 January 1977, by 100 million viewers (51.1% of American households and more than 71% of the total U.S. television viewers that year), but attracted the largest viewership for any type of primetime television series in U.S. history – a record currently standing at between 130 million and 140 million American viewers for its 8-part installment in January 1977 (peaking up to 80% of the total U.S. television viewers in 1977).
CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond bumped the syndicated series Star Trek: The Next Generation out of the Top 15 Nielsen tally of the all-time most watched U.S. TV series finales in May 2005, but the latter remains the most watched of all syndicated programs in U.S. history. NBC aired 2 of the top 5 all-time most watched overall U.S. television series finales to date (both of sitcom genre, behind the 1983 M.A.S.H. and 1977 Roots respective final episodes, and also sandwiching the peak rating record of the August 1967, final broadcast of ABC's The Fugitive) – the 21 May 1993, broadcast of the series finale of Cheers (the most watched overall U.S. television series finale in the advent of cable television starting the mid-1990s, covering almost 93.5 million American viewers and 46% of all American households that year), and the primetime telecast of the final episode of Seinfeld on 14 May 1998. Take note that the gap of the viewerships between these and each of the series finales (on 6 and 13 May 2004) of fellow NBC sitcoms Friends and Frasier (which became part of the long highly regarded 'Must See TV' tagline for Thursday primetime schedule of NBC from 1982 to 2004) fall between 20 million and 30 million viewers.
|Rank||Title||Episode||Number of viewers
|Household share||Audience share||Date||Network|
|1||M*A*S*H||"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"||125.0[a]||60.2%||77%||28 Feb 1983||CBS|
|2||Roots (miniseries)||"Part VIII"||100.0||51.1%||71%||30 Jan 1977||ABC|
|3||Cheers||"One for the Road"||93.5[a]||45.5%||64%||20 May 1993||NBC|
|4||The Fugitive||"The Judgment" Part 2||78.0||45.9%||72%||29 Aug 1967||ABC|
|5||Seinfeld||"The Finale"||76.3||41.3%||58%||14 May 1998||NBC|
|6||Friends||"The Last One"||65.9||35.6%||52%||6 May 2004||NBC|
|7||Magnum, P.I.||"Resolutions"||50.7||32.0%||48%||8 May 1988||CBS|
|8||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson||Finale of Carson-hosting era||50.0||30.0%||46%||22 May 1992||NBC|
|9||The Cosby Show||"And So We Commence"||44.4||28.0%||45%||30 April 1992|
|10||All in the Family||"Too Good Edith"||40.2||26.6%||43%||8 April 1979||CBS|
|11||Family Ties||"Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore"||36.3||20.8%||35%||14 May 1989||NBC|
|12||Home Improvement||"The Long and Winding Road"||35.5||21.6%||43%||25 May 1999||ABC|
|13||Frasier||"Goodnight, Seattle"||35.2  ||16.3%||25%||13 May 2004||NBC|
|14||Dallas||"Conundrum"||33.3||22.0%||38%||3 May 1991||CBS|
|15||Everybody Loves Raymond||"The Finale"||32.9||20.2%||29%||16 May 2005||CBS|
- The number of viewers for M*A*S*H (105.9 million) and Cheers (84.4 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 93.5 million viewers. For Cheers and M*A*S*H, 93.5 million and 121.6 million represent the total audience who watched at least six minutes and the 84.4 million and 105.9 million represent the viewers who watched the average minute. As previously mentioned, 125 million represents the total audience that tuned into the last 5 minutes of the series finale of M.A.S.H. during its primetime telecast. Regular episodes of M*A*S*H were thirty minutes long, but the final episode aired as a television movie and was two hours and thirty minutes long.
Most watched series episode of the decade
This table lists the most watched overall television episode for every decade in the United States, as tallied by the Nielsen Media Research since the 1950–51 television season. Take note that the audience share category of the Nielsen ratings only began in the 1959–60 television season.
|Decade||Title||Episode||Number of viewers
|Household share||Audience share||Date||Network|
|1950s||The Ed Sullivan Show||Special guesting of Elvis Presley||60.0||82.6%||71%||9 Sep 1956||CBS|
|1960s||The Fugitive||"The Judgment"
|78.0||45.9%||72%||29 Aug 1967||ABC|
|1970s||Roots (miniseries)||"Part VIII"||100.0||51.1%||71%||30 Jan 1977||ABC|
|1980s||M*A*S*H||"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"||125.0||60.2%||77%||28 Feb 1983||CBS|
|1990s||Cheers||"One for the Road"||93.5||45.5%||64%||20 May 1993||NBC|
|2000s||Friends||"The Last One"||65.9||35.6%||52%||6 May 2004||NBC|
|2010s||Undercover Boss||"Waste Management, Inc" (Series Premiere)||38.7||26.1%||32%||7 Feb 2010||CBS|
Most watched series per year
This table lists all the TV shows with the highest average household Nielsen rating for each television season in the United States. Take note, however, that the final annual-high Nielsen household share ratings starting the 2007–08 season incorporate both the standard live primetime and time-shifted or delayed DVR viewership figures in the United States only.
Fox's American Idol holds the record for most consecutive (and overall total) seasons at No. 1, with eight. It is also the first ever television series of reality singing competition genre (and Fox's first ever television program) to take the top position in the Nielsen annual primetime television ratings. Take note, however, that American Idol usually airs two live episodes a week for its finals stage (Tuesdays and Wednesdays from its inception in 2002 to 2010, and Wednesdays and Thursdays between 2011 and 2014); 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). From 2005 to 2011, the whole show was No. 1 for only seven consecutive (and overall total) seasons, but still ranked No.1 overall in the 18–49 demographic for eight consecutive seasons.
CBS's All in the Family and NBC's The Cosby Show share second place, ranked No. 1 overall each for 5 consecutive (and overall total) seasons, from 1972 to 1976, and 1986 to 1990, respectively. If the total number of seasons of Nielsen No.1-leads are counted, CBS's 60 Minutes also share second place, and to date is the only primetime program to lead the Nielsen primetime ratings in 3 separate decades – 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s, and together with NBC's ER and Friends, remained the latest primetime programs in the United States of television news, medical drama and sitcom genres to rank first in the Nielsen annual ratings, back in 1994, 1999 and 2002, respectively. NBC's Seinfeld remained as the latest television series to end its run leading the annual Nielsen television ratings, back in 1998. 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's 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.
Record-setting U.S. television programs as listed below are in bold text.
The program with the all-time highest annual Nielsen average rating
Two or more programs tie for highest average Nielsen rating in the same season
The program with the all-time longest consecutive season winning streak in Nielsen ratings
Longest dominating series of the decade
This table lists the primetime television series with the most number of seasons of No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for every decade in the United States, as tallied by the Nielsen Media Research since the 1950–1951 television season. Only the Nielsen household share will be shown in the following table.
The U.S. television program with the longest ever streak at No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings is written in bold text.
|Decade||Series||Peak season household share||Debut season at Nielsen No. 1||End season at Nielsen No. 1||Total number of seasons at No. 1||Network|
|1950s||I Love Lucy||67.3 (1952–1953)||1952–1953||1956–1957||4||CBS|
|1970s||All in the Family||34.0 (1971–1972)||1971–1972||1975–1976||5|
|1980s||The Cosby Show||34.9 (1986–1987)||1985–1986||1989–1990||NBC|
|1990s||60 Minutes||28.4 (1979–1980)||1979–1980||1993–1994||CBS|
|2000s||American Idol||17.6 (2005–2006)||2003–2004||2010–2011||8||Fox|
|2010s||NBC Sunday Night Football||13.3 (2015–2016)||2011-2012||2015-2016||4||NBC|
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