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100 Most-Watched TV Shows of 2019-20: Winners and Losers

Variety logo Variety 22/05/2020 Michael Schneider
Robin Thicke et al. standing on a stage © Fox

You’ll be excused if you didn’t even realize that the 2019-2020 TV season ended on Wednesday night; since the world has been on lockdown and the pandemic has dramatically changed the look and feel of primetime over the past few weeks, everything seems a bit off kilter. But the season did end with a good old fashioned huge ratings event: The Season 3 finale of “The Masked Singer,” a show that almost felt of another time by its end.

“The Masked Singer” kicked off its most recent season as Fox’s post-Super Bowl program on February 2; by the time it ended 18 weeks later, the world was a very different place. “The Masked Singer” remained a powerhouse, however: Even if the post-Super Bowl special isn’t included, the competition series is easily the year’s top-rated entertainment series among adults 18-49.

Meanwhile, on the total viewer side, with “The Big Bang Theory” retired, another CBS staple recaptures the most-watched entertainment series crown: “NCIS,” now in its 17th season, is tops, with 15.3 million viewers.

Of course, ultimately it’s NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” that once again dominated in all measures — both adults 18-49 (6.0 rating) and total viewers (20 million). Nothing else comes close. It’s why the NFL — and the networks — are so anxious to have sports back and running by fall.

As we’ve written before, ratings just aren’t as critical as they used to be, given the multiple ways people now consume content — and the long tail of that consumption. But they remain the most common way to compare the linear performance of shows both on broadcast and cable.

Here’s a final look at some of the hits and misses of 2019–2020, followed by our complete list of the 100 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

Fox: Not a bad first year for the now-independent Fox network. Yep, the Super Bowl helped tremendously, as did Thursday Night Football. But that was the point, right? Fox’s strategy, now that it has uncoupled from 20th Century Fox assets, has been to rethink what it is to be a broadcast network in an age where it’s tough to be a broadcast network. And thanks to sports, and “The Masked Singer” — which the network owns and produces — it’s been a solid season. This is Fox’s first 18-49 No. 1 finish in eight years, and it’s the only major English-language network to be up year-over-year in the demo and total viewers. (Univision is also up among the major Spanish nets.) According to the network, even its programming on Hulu is up 32% year-over-year. “The Masked Singer” was so hot that its spinoff, “The Masked Singer: After the Mask,” also ranked higher thank shows that probably cost ten times to produce.

“90 Day Fiancé”: Before people were talking about “Tiger King,” it was TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé” franchise that had taken the crown as TV’s most popular guilty pleasure. Three — yes, three! — different editions of “90 Day Fiancé” made the top 100 list this year, including “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days,” “90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way,” and the original series. And if TLC doesn’t already have enough to celebrate, another one of its guilty pleasures, “Dr. Pimple Popper,” manages to sneak on to the total viewers chart.

Sports: The NFL, of course, dominates as usual, with Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football all leading the 18-49 ranker (and with the exception of “NCIS” sneaking in there, also the total viewer list). But look at what made a last minute jump to No. 5 on this year’s 18-49 list: ESPN’s Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance.” That gave ESPN two series in the top five, easily making it cable’s dominant force on the chart. A consolation prize, perhaps, for ESPN right now, given how it’s struggling to figure out how to program a sports network in a country with no sports.

Dick Wolf: Everything’s coming up Dick Wolf. His “FBI: Most Wanted” is the season’s most-watched new series, and in total viewers, he clocks four out of the eight most-watched scripted series in primetime. His three “Chicago” shows for NBC and two “FBI” shows for CBS remain durable franchises.

LOSERS

Comedy: It’s tough out there for laffers. CBS’ “Young Sheldon” is the most-watched comedy in primetime, ranked No. 9 with 11.4 million viewers — down from 14.6 million last year. There are only five comedies total in the 2+ top 50 ranker. Among adults 18-49, the performance is also weak: The top-rated comedy, Modern Family, is just outside the top 10 — and that show has just left the airwaves for good. We also listed “comedy” as a loser last year, and the prognosis has only worsened.

“The Walking Dead”: Sorry, zombies. “The Walking Dead” continues to be the top-rated cable entertainment program. But remember when it used to be TV’s top-rated show, period? Now, sadly, the slide continues, and it’s just out of the top 10, with a 1.9 rating — compared to a 3.2 last year, 5.3 rating in 2017-2018, a 8.0 in 2016-2017, and yes, a 9.6 in 2015-2016.

“Tommy”: With several renewals and cancelations still pending, CBS’ “Tommy,” starring Edie Falco, earns the distinction of being the most-watched show (7.7 million) to be canceled so far from this past season.

THE 100 TOP-RATED SERIES OF 2019-2020 (ADULTS 18-49)

Rank

PROGRAM (NETWORK)

RATING /SHARE

18-49 VIEWER (000)

1.

NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC)

6.0/26

7,819

2.

NFL Thursday Night Football (Fox/NFL)

4.5/22

5,799

3.

NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN)

4.1/21

5,370

4.

The Masked Singer (Fox)

3.2/16

4,138

5.

The Last Dance (ESPN)

2.9/15

3,811

This Is Us (NBC)

2.9/13

3,713

7.

The Bachelor (ABC)

2.4/12

3,120

8.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

2.3/12

3,028

9-1-1 (Fox)

2.3/11

2,983

10.

Chicago PD (NBC)

2.0/11

2,605

11.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

1.9/8

2,499

Survivor (CBS)

1.9/10

2,495

Chicago Fire (NBC)

1.9/9

2,480

Modern Family (ABC)

1.9/9

2,473

Lego Masters (Fox)

1.9/9

2,416

16.

The Good Doctor (ABC)

1.8/9

2,386

9-1-1: Lone Star (Fox)

1.8/9

2,325

The Voice (NBC)

1.8/8

2,308

19.

Chicago Med (NBC)

1.7/8

2,240

NCIS (CBS)

1.7/8

2,207

American Idol-Monday (ABC)

1.7/8

2,183

New Amsterdam (NBC)

1.7/9

2,147

23.

Young Sheldon (CBS)

1.6/9

2,100

American Horror Story (FX)

1.6/8

2,090

The Conners (ABC)

1.6/8

2,086

The Voice-Tuesday (NBC)

1.6/8

2,082

A Million Little Things (ABC)

1.6/8

2,020

28.

Station 19 (ABC)

1.5/8

2,002

American Idol (ABC)

1.5/7

1,974

Manifest (NBC)

1.5/8

1,938

31.

The Masked Singer: After the Mask (Fox)

1.4/7

1,870

Law & Order: SVU (NBC)

1.4/7

1,866

Criminal Minds (CBS)

1.4/7

1,861

America’s Got Talent Champions (NBC)

1.4/7

1,839

FBI (CBS)

1.4/7

1,814

Saturday Night Football (ABC)

1.4/8

1,793

Prodigal Son (Fox)

1.4/6

1,790

90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days (TLC)

1.4/6

1,758

39.

The Rookie (ABC)

1.3/7

1,720

Mom (CBS)

1.3/6

1,646

The Resident (Fox)

1.3/6

1,644

The Goldbergs (ABC)

1.3/6

1,636

The Neighborhood (CBS)

1.3/6

1,624

44.

The Good Place (NBC)

1.2/6

1,598

FBI: Most Wanted (CBS)

1.2/7

1,576

Seal Team (CBS)

1.2/6

1,574

Empire (Fox)

1.2/6

1,548

60 Minutes (CBS)

1.2/6

1,544

Last Man Standing (Fox)

1.2/6

1,539

S.W.A.T. (CBS)

1.2/6

1,536

Bull (CBS)

1.2/6

1,533

90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way (TLC)

1.2/5

1,531

Ellen’s Game of Games (NBC)

1.2/6

1,515

Family Guy (Fox)

1.2/5

1,499

Blue Bloods (CBS)

1.2/6

1,497

56.

Hawai’i Five-0 (CBS)

1.1/6

1,469

The Simpsons (Fox)

1.1/5

1,468

90 Day Fiancé (TLC)

1.1/5

1,456

Superstore (NBC)

1.1/6

1,434

Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo)

1.1/5

1,416

Dancing with the Stars (ABC)

1.1/5

1,413

Evil (CBS)

1.1/6

1,411

Stumptown (ABC)

1.1/6

1,410

NCIS: New Orleans (CBS)

1.1/6

1,410

For Life (ABC)

1.1/6

1,393

How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)

1.1/6

1,389

The Blacklist (NBC)

1.1/6

1,378

Fox College Football: Big 12 Prime (Fox)

1.1/6

1,378

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)

1.1/5

1,372

Curse of Oak Island (History)

1.1/5

1,372

Jersey Shore: Family Vacation S3 (MTV)

1.1/5

1,371

Bob’s Burgers (Fox)

1.1/5

1,365

73.

Below Deck Mediterranean (Bravo)

1.0/5

1,350

Magnum P.I. (CBS)

1.0/6

1,344

Mayans M.C. (FX)

1.0/6

1,337

Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS)

1.0/5

1,333

Deputy (Fox)

1.0/5

1,331

The Unicorn (CBS)

1.0/5

1,307

Shark Tank (ABC)

1.0/5

1,304

Single Parents (ABC)

1.0/5

1,303

Songland (NBC)

1.0/5

1,288

Below Deck (Bravo)

1.0/4

1,285

Jersey Shore: Family Vacation S3B (MTV)

1.0/5

1,280

American Housewife (ABC)

1.0/6

1,277

Real Housewives of Orange County (Bravo)

1.0/5

1,268

Emergence (ABC)

1.0/5

1,256

Man with a Plan (CBS)

1.0/5

1,254

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Thu. (ABC)

1.0/6

1,250

Love & Hip Hop Atlanta 9 (VH1)

1.0/5

1,239

The Challenge: Total Madness (MTV)

1.0/5

1,238

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (ABC)

1.0/5

1,233

Will & Grace (NBC)

1.0/5

1,231

MacGyver (CBS)

1.0/5

1,231

94.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)

0.9/5

1,228

Schooled (ABC)

0.9/5

1,227

Good Girls (NBC)

0.9/5

1,222

Broke (CBS)

0.9/5

1,215

Bless This Mess (ABC)

0.9/5

1,212

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Bravo)

0.9/5

1,197

America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC)

0.9/4

1,190

Teen Mom II S9B (MTV)

0.9/4

1,183

Love & Hip Hop Hollywood 6 (VH1)

0.9/4

1,172

All Rise (CBS)

0.9/4

1,169

24 Hours to Hell and Back (Fox)

0.9/4

1,156

Mixed-ish (ABC)

0.9/4

1,153

The Challenge: War of Worlds (MTV)

0.9/4

1,138

Basketball Wives 8 (VH1)

0.9/4

1,137

Love & Hip Hop 10 (VH1)

0.9/4

1,131

Keeping Up with the Kardashians (E!)

0.9/4

1,130

WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Fox)

0.9/5

1,128

Vanderpump Rules (Bravo)

0.9/4

1,107

Bluff City Law (NBC)

0.9/4

1,105

Source: Nielsen, Preliminary Live+7 Days, Prime, Original telecasts only. Season through 5/10/2020. Programs with 2 or more telecasts.

TOP 100 SHOWS OF 2019-2020, TOTAL VIEWERS

America’s most-watched series of the 2019-2020 season are …

Rank

Title (Network)

VIEWERS (000)

1.

NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC)

19,993

2.

NCIS (CBS)

15,336

3.

NFL Thursday Night Football (Fox/NFL Network)

15,048

4.

NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN)

12,750

5.

FBI (CBS)

12,552

6.

Blue Bloods (CBS)

11,962

7.

Chicago Fire (NBC)

11,699

8.

This Is Us (NBC)

11,549

9.

Young Sheldon (CBS)

11,449

10.

Chicago PD (NBC)

11,228

11.

Chicago Med (NBC)

11,220

12.

The Good Doctor (ABC)

10,824

13.

The Masked Singer (Fox)

10,783

14.

Bull (CBS)

10,607

15.

60 Minutes (CBS)

10,459

16.

9-1-1 (Fox)

10,416

17.

The Voice (NBC)

10,367

18.

FBI: Most Wanted (CBS)

10,204

19.

The Voice-Tuesday (NBC)

9,728

20.

New Amsterdam (NBC)

9,700

21.

Hawai’i Five-0 (CBS)

9,684

22.

NCIS: New Orleans (CBS)

9,583

23.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

9,386

24.

Survivor (CBS)

9,229

25.

9-1-1: Lone Star (Fox)

9,085

26.

America’s Got Talent Champions (NBC)

8,922

27.

Magnum P.I. (CBS)

8,914

28.

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)

8,913

29.

Station 19 (ABC)

8,550

30.

American Idol — Monday (CBS)

8,536

31.

Mom (CBS)

8,524

32.

American Idol (ABC)

8,336

33.

The Rookie (ABC)

8,185

34.

Seal Team  (CBS)

8,020

35.

Criminal Minds (CBS)

8,006

36.

Dancing with the Stars (ABC)

7,998

37.

The Bachelor (ABC)

7,934

38.

The Conners (ABC)

7,729

39.

Manifest (NBC)

7,698

40.

The Neighborhood (CBS)

7,694

41.

Tommy (CBS)

7,685

42.

All Rise (CBS)

7,643

43.

God Friended Me (CBS)

7,616

44.

Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS)

7,538

45.

MacGyver (CBS)

7,500

46.

Man with a Plan (CBS)

7,468

47.

A Million Little Things (ABC)

7,262

48.

S.W.A.T. (CBS)

7,255

49.

Modern Family (ABC)

7,099

50.

The Unicorn (CBS)

7,095

51.

Broke (CBS)

6,916

52.

The Blacklist (NBC)

6,913

53.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Thu. (ABC)

6,879

54.

Madam Secretary (CBS)

6,737

55.

The Last Dance (ESPN)

6,709

56.

The Resident (Fox)

6,704

57.

Carol’s Second Act (CBS)

6,594

58.

Law & Order: SVU (NBC)

6,455

59.

Last Man Standing (Fox)

6,403

60.

Deputy (Fox)

6,340

61.

Evil (CBS)

6,287

62.

Bluff City Law (NBC)

6,239

63.

Stumptown (ABC)

5,963

64.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (ABC)

5,849

65.

Prodigal Son (Fox)

5,830

66.

America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC)

5,702

67.

Emergence (ABC)

5,669

68.

Lego Masters (Fox)

5,598

69.

Lincoln Rhyme (NBC)

5,574

70.

The Masked Singer: After the Mask (Fox)

5,559

71.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

5,373

72.

Ellen’s Game of Games (NBC)

5,314

73.

The Goldbergs (ABC)

5,311

74.

Saturday Night Football (ABC)

5,191

75.

Shark Tank (ABC)

4,928

76.

Songland (NBC)

4,918

77.

Undercover Boss (CBS)

4,915

78.

Dateline Friday (NBC)

4,866

79.

Bless This Mess (ABC)

4,722

80.

Curse of Oak Island (History)

4,650

81.

American Housewife (ABC)

4,500

82.

For Life (ABC)

4,360

83.

20/20 (ABC)

4,350

84.

How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)

4,225

85.

90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days (TLC)

4,047

86.

Empire (Fox)

4,043

87.

Fox College Football: Big 12 Prime (Fox)

4,030

88.

48 Hours (CBS)

4,022

89.

Will & Grace (NBC)

4,010

90.

Council of Dads (NBC)

4,008

91.

Kids Say the Darndest Things (ABC)

3,966

92.

Schooled (ABC)

3,929

93.

The Baker and the Beauty (ABC)

3,887

94.

Mixed-ish (ABC)

3,820

95.

Superstore (NBC)

3,816

96.

Black-ish (ABC)

3,719

97.

Dateline Mystery (NBC)

3,715

98.

Dr. Pimple Popper (TLC)

3,658

99.

Single Parents (ABC)

3,646

100.

The Good Place (NBC)

3,563

Source: Nielsen, Preliminary Live+7 Days, Prime, Original telecasts only. Season through 5/10/2020. Programs with 2 or more telecasts.

THE MOST-WATCHED BROADCAST NETWORKS OF 2019-2020 (BY TOTAL VIEWERS)

CBS (7,676,000; down 14%)

NBC (6,628,000; down 9%)

Fox (6,391,000; up 17%)

ABC (5,458,000; down 3%)

Univision (1,461,000; up 6%)

Ion (1,282,000; down 2%)

Telemundo (1,107,000; down 8%)

The CW (1,040,000; down 22%)

Me TV (740,000; up 5%)

Unimas (523,000; up 40%)

THE TOP-RATED BROADCAST NETWORKS OF 2019-2020 (BY ADULTS 18-49)

1. Fox (1.7; up 14%)

2. NBC (1.4; down 16%)

3. ABC (1.1; down 11%)

t. CBS (1.1; down 31%)

5. Univision (0.5; up 6%)

6. Telemundo (0.4; down 10%)

7. The CW (0.3; down 29%)

t. Ion (0.3; down 2%)

9.Unimas (0.2; up 46%)

10. Bounce TV (0.1; up 15%)

Source: Nielsen, NPM (09/23/2019-04/26/2020, Live+7 and 04/27/2020-05/10/2020, Live+SD) vs. (09/24/2018-04/28/2019, Live+7 and 04/29/2019-05/12/2019, Live+SD) Mon-Sat 8pm-11pm/Sun 7pm-11pm.

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