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List of most watched television broadcasts

List of most watched television broadcasts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The following is a partial list of most watched television broadcasts, organized by country and based on various criteria.
This television-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.




Worldwide viewership statistics cited in press releases by television networks, FIFA, the NFL and others have been questioned by independent groups and audience figures cited in billions are considered practically unverifiable. FIFA has admitted that numbers have been massively exaggerated in some cases, and simply guessed in others.[1]
Estimates for the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony global TV viewership varied between one and four billion,[2][3][4][5][6][7]including an estimated 842 million viewers watching on host Chinese broadcaster China Central Television.[2] A verifiable audience of 984 million tuned in to the opening ceremony at some stage, averaging at 593 million, while 778 million watched the closing ceremony.[8] The 2008 Summer Olympics is the current record holder for a multi-day broadcast. It is estimated by Nielsen Media Research that up to 4.7 billion individual viewers (70% of the world's population) watched some part of the coverage.[9]
The 2006 FIFA World Cup Final was watched by 715 million people, as estimated by FIFA.[10] IPG independent media agency Initiative Worldwide estimated an average of 260 million, with 600 million who tuned for some part of the game.[11] The independent firm Initiative Futures Sport + Entertainment estimate a reach of 638 million and an average of 322 million viewers.[12]
On July 20, 1969, 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),[13][14] despite the fact that the first moonwalk took place in the middle of the night in Europe (at 2:56 AM in the United Kingdom and 3:56 AM in France and Germany) and it was not broadcast at all in the Eastern Bloc [15] except Romania [16]
A satellite broadcast for an Elvis Presley show live from Hawaii, titled Aloha from Hawaii on January 14, 1973 is reported to have reached 1–1.5 billion viewers globally.[17][18][19][unreliable source?] Some breakdowns of the figures suggest 40% of the Japanese television audience,[20] and 91.8% of the television audience in the Philippines,[21] with an estimated 51% of the American television audience[20] when it aired later in America on April 4, 1973.[20][22]
The 2011 Cricket World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan is reported to have been watched by about one billion people by The Guardian,[23] which if accurate would mean it had more than twice as many viewers as the actual final, which was watched by 400 million people based on the available data.[24]
The annual Eurovision Song Contest is reported to have between 100 and 600 million viewers, depending on the source.[25][26]
Many events in the world have been reported as been watched by large audiences, sometimes by billions - although most of the figures do not have reliable sources, and are given by the promoters of such events to boost viewership, sometimes before the actual airing.[27]The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was expected to draw a global audience of two billion,[28] but only drew a verified audience of 161 million viewers from 47% of the world population.[24] Other examples are the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer,[29][30] the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales[27][31][32] Michael Jackson's memorial service,[27] andthe rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners in 2010.[33]



The list below is the top ten most watched broadcasts in Australia since 2001. These figures represents the Five Metro Capital audience (Syd-Mel-Bris-Per-Ade) and don't include regional figures.
12005 Australian Open - Men's Singles FinalMarat Safin def. Lleyton Hewitt4,045,0002005Seven Network
22003 Rugby World Cup Final4,016,0002003Seven Network
3MasterChef Australia (season 2) - finale challenge3,962,00025 July 2010Network Ten
42012 State of Origin series Game 1 (New South Wales v Queensland)3,957,0002012Nine Network
5MasterChef Australia (season 1) - winners announcement3,560,00019 July 2009Network Ten
62006 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony3,560,0002006Nine Network
72005 AFL Grand Final (Sydney Swans v West Coast Eagles)3,386,0002005Network Ten
8Australian Idol: The final verdict3,344,0002004Network Ten
9Masterchef Australia: Finale night3,313,00019 July 2009Network Ten
10Australian Idol: The final verdict3,330,0002006Network Ten

[edit]Top programmes

Nielsen compiling ratings for television beginning in 1956;[citation needed] OzTAM began in 1999.[34]
These are the programs that finished with the highest average Nielsen and OzTAM rating in each television season:
Year's most watched
1996Blue HeelersSevenNine
1997Blue HeelersSevenNine
1998Friends (new episodes)NineNine
2002National Nine News SundayNineNine
2003The BlockNineNine
2004Australian IdolTenNine
2005Desperate HousewivesSevenNine
2006Dancing with the StarsSevenNine
2007Kath and KimSevenSeven
2008Packed to the RaftersSevenSeven
2009MasterChef AustraliaTenSeven
In 2009, MasterChef Australia became the most watched non-sporting event in Australian history.[citation needed]


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 GM Place (renamed "Canada Hockey Place" for the Olympics) inVancouver. A confirmed 16.6 million Canadians watched the whole game, roughly one-half of the country's entire population.[35] A groundbreaking 26.5 million Canadians watched some part of the game, over 80 percent of the country's 33-million-person population.[36] According to multiple sources, 13.3 million Canadians watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, which was the previous record.[37]
Many believed the final game of the 1972 Summit Series had up to 18 million viewers, but those rumours have been proven false, as only 4.3 million people watched it. 10.3 million people watched the ice hockey gold medal final of the 2002 Winter Olympics.[38]


China Central Television's Spring Festival Gala has regularly attracted between 700 million and one billion viewers since the early 1980s.[citation needed] As of 2007, their main evening news broadcast (Xinwen Lianbo) had a daily audience of around 135 million people, a low figure compared to earlier years.[citation needed]
Follow Me! a BBC beginner's English programme broadcast in China as part of the re-establishment of an educational system after the end of the Cultural Revolution.[39][40] The programme, broadcast on one of China's three channels from 1981 to 1989,[39] has been estimated to have attracted a nightly audience of 350 million people during the early 1980s.[40]


The 2011 Cricket World Cup Final was watched by 135 million viewers across the country in cable & satellite, terrestrial and DTH homes aMap.[41] The official broadcaster ESPN Star Sports (ESS) via its STAR Cricket channel experienced all-time high TRPs, had raised ad rates for 10 second slots during the finals to INR24 lakh (US$47,900), prior to the final.[42]


[edit]Most watched telecasts

RankShowEpisodeNumber of ViewersShareDateNetwork
12010 FIFA World CupGermany vs Spain (semi-final)31.10 million1, 483.2%7 July 2010Das Erste
22006 FIFA World CupGermany vs Italy (semi-final)29.66 million1, 2, 384.1%4 July 2006ZDF
32010 FIFA World CupGhana vs. Germany (group game)29.19 million1, 479.7%23 June 2010Das Erste
4UEFA Euro 2008Germany vs Turkey (semi-final)29.43 million181.8%25 June 2008ZDF
51990 FIFA World CupWest Germany vs Argentina (final)28.66 million9 July 1990Das Erste
6UEFA Euro 1996Germany vs Czech Republic (final)28.44 million76.3%30 June 1996ZDF
7UEFA Euro 2008Austria vs Germany (group game)28.04 million1, 576.9%16 June 2008ZDF
8The Black Forest Clinic"Die Schuldfrage" (engl.: The question of guilt)27.97 million17 November 1985ZDF
92010 FIFA World CupGermany vs Australia (group game)27.91 million1, 474.4%13 June 2010Das Erste
10UEFA Euro 2008Portugal vs Germany (quarter-final)27.70 million1, 578.7%19 June 2008Das Erste
112002 FIFA World CupGermany vs Brazil (final)27.09 million88.0%30 June 2002ZDF
  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.
  • 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]

[edit]New Zealand

The following are the most watched television programmes or events in New Zealand since 1 January 1995, according to Nielsen TAM ratings.[46][47]
RankProgramme/EventNumber of viewersDateNetwork
12011 Rugby World Cup – final between New Zealand andFrance2,037,00023 October 2011TV One / TV3 /Sky / Māori
22011 Rugby World Cup – semifinal between New Zealand andAustralia2,024,00016 October 2011TV One / TV3 /Sky / Māori
32011 Rugby World Cup – opening game between New Zealand and Tonga1,930,0009 September 2011TV One / Sky /Māori
4Boxing match between David Tua and Lennox Lewis1,841,00012 November 2000TV3
5One News special – Death of Diana, Princess of Wales1,703,00031 August 1997TV One
62000 Summer Olympics – opening ceremony1,654,00015 September 2000TV One
7One News special – Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales1,650,0006 September 1997TV One
82011 Rugby World Cup – quarter-final between New Zealandand Argentina1,624,0009 October 2011TV One / TV3 /Sky / Māori
92003 Rugby World Cup – final between England and Australia1,605,00022 November 2003TV One
10Martin Bashir's interview with Diana, Princess of Wales1,517,00021 November 1995TV2
112011 Rugby World Cup – opening ceremony1,499,0009 September 2011TV One
122007 Rugby World Cup – quarter-final between New Zealandand France1,410,0007 October 2007TV3

[edit]United Kingdom

[edit]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 second most watched programme of all time on a single channel after 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
RankShowEpisodeNumber of viewers
1EastEndersDen divorces Angie.30.15[48]25 December 1986*BBC1
2EastEnders28.00[49]1 January 1987*BBC1
3Coronation StreetHilda Ogden leaves26.65[49]25 December 1987*ITV (Granada)
4Only Fools and HorsesTime On Our Hands24.35[50]29 December 1996BBC1
5EastEnders24.30[51]2 January 1992*BBC1
6Royal Variety Performance1965Shirley Bassey, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore24.20[52]14 November 1965ITV (ATV)
7EastEnders24.15[53]7 January 1988*BBC1
8To the Manor BornSeries 1 Finale23.95[54]11 November 1979BBC1
9Miss World 196723.76[52]19 November 1967BBC1
10EastEnders23.55[55]26 December 1985*BBC1
11PanoramaPrincess Diana22.78[56]20 November 1995BBC1
12Royal Variety Performance197522.66[54]16 November 1975BBC1
13This Is Your LifeLord Mountbatten22.22[54]27 April 1977ITV (Thames)
14Sunday Night at the London Palladium21.89[52]3 December 1967ITV (ATV)
15The Benny Hill Show21.67[54]24 March 1971ITV (Thames)
16DallasJ.R. Ewing's shooter is revealed21.60[57]22 November 1980BBC1
=16Coronation Street21.60[51]8 January 1992ITV (Granada)
18Eurovision Song Contest 197321.56[54]7 April 1973BBC1
19Steptoe and Son21.54[52]18 February 1964BBC1
20The Mike Yarwood ShowMike Yarwood Christmas Show21.40[54]25 December 1977BBC1
=20Coronation Street21.40[55]2 Jan 1985ITV (Granada)
22Coronation Street21.36[52]2 December 1964ITV (Granada)
23Only Fools and Horses"If They Could See Us Now"21.35[58]25 December 2001BBC1
24Morecambe and WiseMorecambe and Wise Christmas Show21.30[54]25 December 1977BBC1
25NeighboursNick Page rescues Todd and Katie Landers from Skinner21.16[59]26 February 1990*BBC1
  • Entries with an asterisk denote aggregated figure with repeat showing.

[edit]Most watched films

(by total number of viewers;[60] dates are when the films were broadcast, not necessarily when they were produced.)
RankShowNumber of viewersDateNetwork
1Live and Let Die23.50 million20 January 1980ITV
2Jaws23.25 million8 October 1981ITV
3The Spy Who Loved Me22.90 million28 March 1982ITV
4Diamonds Are Forever22.15 million15 March 1981ITV
5Crocodile Dundee21.75 million25 December 1989BBC1

[edit]Most watched special events

Geoff Hurst's "Wembley Goal" at the 1966 World Cup final.
RankEpisodeNumber of viewers
1World Cup 1966 (England v. West Germany)32.30[52]30 July 1966BBC1
2Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales32.10[51]6 September 1997BBC1/ITV
3The Royal Family (documentary)30.69[52]21 June 1969 and28 June 1969BBC1/ITV
4Apollo 13 splashdown28.60[54]17 April 1970BBC1/ITV
5FA Cup Final replayChelsea vs.Leeds28.49[54]29 April 1970BBC1/ITV
6Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer28.40[57]29 July 1981BBC1/ITV
7Wedding of Princess Anne andMark Phillips27.60[54]14 November 1973BBC1/ITV
8JFK Assassination – News Broadcast24.15[52]22 November 1963BBC1/ITV
91994 Winter Olympics23.95[51]21 February 1994BBC1
10World Cup 1998 (England v. Argentina)23.78 [61]30 June 1998ITV
  • Note- The highest ranked one-off broadcast in the UK since 2000 was the Euro 2004 match between England and Portugal (BBC1 - 24 June 2004) with an audience of 20.66 million.[62]
  • Note- The Winter Olympics coverage is Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's Monday night final free dance on their Olympic comeback in 1994 in Lillehammer 10 years after their Olympic victory in Sarajevo. In Lillehammer they took bronze.[51]
  • 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.[63]

[edit]Most watched programmes per year

YearProgrammeDateNumber of Viewers (millions)Network
1981Film: Jaws08 Oct 198123.30 [64]ITV
1982Film: The Spy Who Loved Me28 March 198222.90 [65]ITV
1983Coronation Street23 February 198318.45 [66]ITV
1984The Royal Variety Performance 198425 November 198420.55 [67]BBC1
1985Eastenders26 December 198523.55 [68]BBC1
1986Eastenders25 December 198630.15 [69]BBC1
1987Eastenders1 January 198728.00 [70]BBC1
1988Eastenders7 January 198824.15 [71]BBC1
1989Film: Crocodile Dundee25 December 198921.77 [72]BBC1
1990Neighbours26 February 199021.16 [73]BBC1
1991Coronation Street25 November 199120.45 [74]ITV
1992Coronation Street22 January 199222.45 [75]ITV
1993Coronation Street22 March 199320.73 [76]ITV
1994Torvill and Dean - Olympic Ice Dance Championship21 February 199423.95 [77]BBC1
1995Panorama Special: Princess Diana20 November 199522.78 [78]BBC1
1996Only Fools and Horses29 December 199624.35 [79]BBC1
1997Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales6 September 199719.29 [80]BBC1
1998World Cup 98: England v Argentina30 June 199823.78 [81]ITV
1999Coronation Street7 March 199919.82 [82]ITV
2000Coronation Street3 January 200018.96 [83]ITV
2001Only Fools & Horses25 December 200121.35 [84]BBC1
2002Only Fools & Horses25 December 200217.40 [85]BBC1
2003Coronation Street24 February 200319.43 [86]ITV1
2004Euro 2004: England v Portugal24 June 200420.66 [87]BBC1
2005Coronation Street21 February 200514.36 [88]ITV 1
2006World Cup 2006: England v Sweden20 June 200618.46 [89]ITV1
2007Eastenders25 December 200714.38 [90]BBC1
2008Wallace and GromitA Matter Of Loaf and Death25 December 200816.15 [91]BBC1
2009Britain's Got Talent Final Result30 May 200918.29 [92]ITV1
2010The X Factor Results12 December 201016.55 [93]ITV1
2011The Royal Wedding29 April 201113.59 [94]BBC1
2012The Diamond Jubilee Concert (as of 8 June 2012)4 June 201214.70(overnight) [95]BBC1
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.

[edit]United States

Sources: BBCReutersNielsen Media Research

[edit]Top 46 network prime-time telecasts

(from January 1964 to February 2010; ranked by rating, or "Percentage of Households." Households could include many viewers; share is the percentage of television sets in use tuned to a specific program; source: Nielsen Media Research and Variety)
The following is the top 46 network primetime telecasts between 1964 and 2010. Few post-1990 telecasts are listed. Before Fox's launch in October 1986,[citation needed] the Big Three television networksABCCBS, and NBC—dominated nationwide broadcasting. Since cable and satellite television became widely available and viewed, typical American households have a far greater choice of programming from dozens or hundreds of specialty and broadcast channels, as opposed to the handful of broadcast channels during the era represented by most programs on this list. More recently,[specify] increased ease and prevalence of watching programming other than at its original airing (in reruns, by recording, by time-shifting, on-demand, by internet download, etc.) decreases the need for masses of viewers to tune into a single broadcast as well.[citation needed]
Of the 46 shows on this list:
  • 21 are Super Bowls
  • Eight are from mini series (six Roots and two The Thorn Birds)
  • Three are series finales (The FugitiveM*A*S*HCheers)
  • Eleven are special/rare or highly anticipated events
    • the first two US television performances by The Beatles
    • the two parts of the Olympic figure skating competition featuring Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding
    • two consecutive years of Bob Hope entertaining US troops in Vietnam at Christmas
    • the two-part television premiere of the classic movie Gone With the Wind
    • one year of the annual Academy awards
    • the television movie The Day After
    • and the Dallas episode revealing who shot J.R.
  • Only one "regular" television show appears on this list: an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Of the 46 shows, 15 were broadcast on each of NBC and CBS, 13 shows on ABC, and two shows on Fox. The 23 sports events on the list could be considered to carry their own audience, as compared to the notion that the efforts of any particular network caused the high viewership. All Super Bowl Ratings up to Super Bowl XLIII can be found in full here.[96][97]
Final numbers for Super Bowl XLVI are also unavailable, but ESPN claimed it earned the most viewers in history, over last year's Super Bowl, with an estimated 111.3 million people.[98]
RankShow or EpisodeNumber of HouseholdsPercent of HouseholdsShareDateNetwork
1M*A*S*H series finale: "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"[99]50.15 million60.2%77%28 February 1983CBS
2Dallas episode: "Who Done It?" aka "Who shot J.R.?"41.47 million53.3%76%21 November 1980CBS
3Roots Part VIII (finale)36.38 million51.1%71%30 January 1977ABC
4Super Bowl XVI (San Francisco 49ersvs. Cincinnati Bengals)40.02 million49.1%73%24 January 1982CBS
5Super Bowl XVII (Washington Redskins vs. Miami Dolphins)40.48 million48.6%69%30 January 1983NBC
6XVII Winter OlympicsWomen's figure skating – short program
featuring Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding
45.69 million48.5%64%23 February 1994CBS
7Super Bowl XX (Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots)41.49 million48.3%70%26 January 1986NBC
8Michael Jackson Talks ... to Oprah36.5 million47.9%67%10 February 1993ABC
9Gone with the Wind telecast (part 1)33.96 million47.7%65%7 November 1976NBC
10Gone with the Wind telecast (part 2)33.75 million47.4%64%8 November 1976NBC
11Super Bowl XII (Dallas Cowboys vs.Denver Broncos)34.41 million47.2%67%15 January 1978CBS
12Super Bowl XIII (Pittsburgh Steelers vs.Dallas Cowboys)35.09 million47.1%74%21 January 1979NBC
13Bob Hope Christmas Special27.26 million46.6%64%15 January 1970NBC
14Super Bowl XLIV (New Orleans Saintsvs. Indianapolis Colts)53.6 million46.4%68%7 February 2010CBS
15Super Bowl XVIII (Los Angeles Raidersvs. Washington Redskins)38.88 million46.4%71%22 January 1984CBS
16Super Bowl XIX (San Francisco 49ersvs. Miami Dolphins)39.39 million46.4%63%20 January 1985ABC
17Super Bowl XIV (Pittsburgh Steelersvs. Los Angeles Rams)35.33 million46.3%67%20 January 1980CBS
18Super Bowl XXX (Dallas Cowboys vs.Pittsburgh Steelers)44.15 million46.0%68%28 January 1996NBC
19Film: The Day After38.55 million46.0%62%20 November 1983ABC
20Roots Part VI32.68 million45.9%66%28 January 1977ABC
21The Fugitive series finale: "The Judgement: Part 2"25.70 million45.9%72%29 August 1967ABC
22Super Bowl XXI (New York Giants vs.Denver Broncos)40.03 million45.8%66%25 January 1987CBS
23Roots Part V32.54 million45.7%71%27 January 1977ABC
24Super Bowl XXVIII (Dallas Cowboys vs.Buffalo Bills)42.86 million45.5%66%30 January 1994NBC
25Cheers series finale: "One for the Road"42.36 million45.5%64%20 May 1993NBC
26The Ed Sullivan ShowThe Beatles' first appearance[99]23.24 million45.3%60%9 February 1964CBS
27Super Bowl XXVII (Dallas Cowboys vs.Buffalo Bills)41.99 million45.1%66%31 January 1993NBC
28Bob Hope Christmas Show27.05 million45.0%61%14 January 1971NBC
29Roots Part III31.90 million44.8%68%25 January 1977ABC
30Super Bowl XXXII (Denver Broncos vs.Green Bay Packers)43.63 million44.5%67%25 January 1998NBC
31Super Bowl XI (Oakland Raiders vs.Minnesota Vikings)31.61 million44.4%73%9 January 1977NBC
32Super Bowl XV (Oakland Raiders vs.Philadelphia Eagles)34.54 million44.4%63%25 January 1981NBC
33Super Bowl VI (Dallas Cowboys vs.Miami Dolphins)27.45 million44.2%74%16 January 1972CBS
34XVII Winter OlympicsLadies' figure skating – long program
featuring Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding
41.54 million44.1%62%25 February 1994CBS
35Roots Part II31.40 million44.1%62%24 January 1977ABC
38The Beverly Hillbillies: "The Giant Jackrabbit"22.57 million44.0%65%8 January 1964CBS
39Roots Part IV31.19 million43.8%66%26 January 1977ABC
40The Ed Sullivan ShowThe Beatles' second appearance22.445 million43.8%60%16 February 1964CBS
41Super Bowl XXIII (Cincinnati Bengalsvs. San Francisco 49ers)39.32 million43.5%68%22 January 1989NBC
4242nd Academy Awards25.39 million43.4%78%7 April 1970ABC
43Super Bowl XXXIV (St. Louis Rams vs.Tennessee Titans)43.62 million43.3%63%30 January 2000ABC
44Super Bowl XXXI (New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers)42.00 million43.3%65%26 January 1997Fox
45The Thorn Birds Part III35.99 million43.2%62%29 March 1983ABC
46Super Bowl XLII (New York Giants vs.New England Patriots)48.66 million43.1%65%3 February 2008Fox

[edit]Most watched series finales

(sources: Reuters, Variety, Nielsen Media Research, ratings data from USA Today weekly ratings charts)
RankSeriesNumber of Viewers
(in millions)
Percent of HouseholdsShareDateNetwork
1M*A*S*H105.94[100]79.2%77%28 February 1983CBS
2Cheers84.4[100]45.5%64%[101]20 May 1993NBC
3Seinfeld76.3[100]41.3%58%14 May 1998NBC
4Friends52.46[100][102]29.8%43%6 May 2004NBC
5Magnum, P.I.50.7[100][103]32.0%48%1 May 1988CBS
6The Tonight Show
Starring Johnny Carson
50.0[100]N/AN/A22 May 1992NBC
7The Cosby Show44.4[100]28.0%45%30 April 1992NBC
8All in the Family40.2[100][103]26.6%43%8 April 1979CBS
9Family Ties36.320.8%35%14 May 1989NBC
10Home Improvement35.5[104]21.6%[105]43%[104]25 May 1999ABC
11Frasier33.7[102]16.3%25%13 May 2004NBC
12Dallas33.322.0%38%3 May 1991CBS
13Everybody Loves Raymond32.9[102]20.2%29%16 May 2005CBS
14Gunsmoke30.9[103]N/AN/A31 March 1975CBS
15The Fugitive30.0[106]45.9%72%29 August 1967ABC
16Newhart29.518.7%29%21 May 1990CBS
17Star Trek: The Next Generation27.820%34%23 May 1994Syndication
18The Golden Girls27.218.9%38%9 May 1992NBC
19Full House24.314.6%25%23 May 1995ABC
20St. Elsewhere22.5[103]17%29%25 May 1988NBC[107]
21MacGyver22.313.8%26%21 May 1992ABC
22Miami Vice22.214.7%23%21 May 1989NBC
23L.A. Law22.115.9%27%19 May 1994NBC
24ALF21.713.1%24%24 March 1990NBC
25Growing Pains21.113.3%24%25 April 1992ABC
26The Wonder Years21.013.9%23%12 May 1993ABC
27Quantum Leap20.613.7%23%5 May 1993NBC
28Who's the Boss?20.512.7%24%25 April 1992ABC
29The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air19.913.1%22%20 May 1996NBC
30Mad About You19.813.6%20%24 May 1999NBC
31Knots Landing19.613.9%22%13 May 1993CBS
32Bonanza19.3[103] ? ?16 January 1973NBC
33Designing Women18.814.2%22%24 May 1993CBS
34Matlock18.713.2%20%7 May 1995ABC
35Will & Grace18.411.7%18%18 May 2006NBC
36The Facts of Life18.213.2%29%7 May 1988NBC
37Jake and the Fatman18.112.9%20%6 May 1992CBS
38Major Dad17.912.6%20%16 April 1993CBS
39Murphy Brown17.512.3%19%18 May 1998CBS
40Roseanne16.611.6%19%20 May 1997ABC
41Murder, She Wrote16.512.3%21%19 May 1996CBS
42ER16.410.4%17%2 April 2009NBC
43NYPD Blue16.110.4%17%1 March 2005ABC
44Miami Vice16.111.0%21%28 June 1989NBC
45Married... with Children15.210.0%16%5 May 1997Fox
46In the Heat of the Night15.010.9%17%16 May 1995CBS
47Kate & Allie14.911.9%20%22 May 1989CBS
48Dynasty14.710.8%17%11 May 1989ABC
49Monday Night Football14.4[108]9.2%16%26 December 2005ABC
50Beverly Hills, 9021014.49.6%15%17 May 2000Fox
51Wings14.210.2%16%21 May 1997NBC
52JAG14.0[109]9.0%15%29 April 2005CBS
53Mr. Belvedere13.88.5%16%8 July 1990ABC
54Lost13.67.5%13%23 May 2010ABC
55Evening Shade13.59.6%15%23 May 1994CBS
55The King of Queens13.58.8%13%14 May 2007CBS
57Doogie Howser, M.D.13.49.2%14%24 March 1993ABC
58Providence13.39.0%16%20 December 2002NBC
59Life Goes On13.28.9%17%23 May 1993ABC
59The X-Files13.2[110]7.9%12%19 May 2002Fox
61Coach13.19.3%16%14 May 1997ABC
62Touched by an Angel12.9[111]8.9%15%27 April 2003CBS
62Amen12.98.3%19%11 May 1991NBC
64Falcon Crest12.39.3%15%17 May 1990CBS
65Desperate Housewives11.99.0%14%13 May 2012ABC
663rd Rock from the Sun11.97.9%13%22 May 2001NBC
66The Sopranos11.96.5%11%10 June 2007HBO
67Empty Nest11.68.7%17%29 April 1995NBC
68Ally McBeal11.57.5%11%20 May 2002Fox
69Homicide: Life on the Street11.48.4%15%21 May 1999NBC
70Without a Trace11.27.3%12%19 May 2009CBS
71The Nanny11.18.1%14%12 May 1999CBS
71Picket Fences11.18.2%14%24 April 1996CBS
73The Practice10.97.5%13%16 May 2004ABC
74Walker, Texas Ranger10.86.8%13%19 May 2001CBS
74Judging Amy10.87.6%12%3 May 2005CBS
76Sex and the City10.6[112] ? ?22 February 2004HBO
76Becker10.67.3%11%28 January 2004CBS
78Grace Under Fire10.57.4%11%17 February 1998ABC
78Highway to Heaven10.57.1%16%4 August 1989NBC
80Melrose Place10.47.3%12%24 May 1999Fox
81Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman10.26.7%15%16 May 1998CBS
82Sisters10.17.1%14%4 May 1996NBC
82The West Wing10.16.2%10%14 May 2006NBC
84That '70s Show10.06.0%10%18 May 2006Fox
84Boy Meets World10.06.1%12%5 May 2000ABC
84Cold Case10.06.4%11%2 May 2010CBS
87Boston Legal9.96.2%10%8 December 2008ABC
87Ellen9.97.1%11%13 May 1998ABC
89Wizards of Waverly Place9.8[113] ? ?6 January 2012Disney Channel
89The District9.76.6%12%1 May 2004CBS
90The Unit9.65.8%10%10 May 2009CBS
91Monk9.4[114][115]5.5%9%4 December 2009USA Network
92A Different World9.36.6%14%8 May 1993NBC
93Nash Bridges9.16.3%12%4 May 2001CBS
94The Pretender9.06.2%12%13 May 2000NBC
95Third Watch9.06.1%11%6 May 2005NBC
96248.9[116]5.2%8%24 May 2010Fox
97Star Trek: Voyager8.85.5%9%23 May 2001UPN
98Martin8.65.8%11%1 May 1997Fox
98NewsRadio8.66.5%11%4 May 1999NBC
98Moonlighting8.65.7%10%14 May 1989ABC
101Numb3rs8.35.1%9%14 May 2010CBS
102Ed8.25.8%10%6 February 2004NBC
103Caroline in the City8.16.3%10%26 April 1999NBC
104Las Vegas8.05.0%9%15 February 2008NBC
105Cosby7.95.2%10%28 April 2000CBS
106Law & Order7.85.1%9%24 May 2010NBC
106Drake and Josh7.8 ? ?3 August 2007Nickelodeon
106Medium7.84.9%9%21 January 2011CBS
109Malcolm in the Middle7.54.8%7%14 May 2006Fox
109Chicago Hope7.55.8%9%4 May 2000CBS
1092277.55.0%8%6 May 1990NBC
111Dawson's Creek7.34.8%7%14 May 2003WB
112Profiler7.25.2%10%6 May 2000NBC
112Brothers & Sisters7.2[117]4.9 %8%8 May 2011ABC
114The New Adventures of Old Christine7.14.6%6%12 May 2010CBS
115Spin City6.94.8%7%30 April 2002ABC
116Ghost Whisperer6.84.4%9%21 May 2010CBS
117Alias6.74.5%7%22 May 2006ABC
117Dharma & Greg6.74.7%8%30 April 2002ABC
119Star Trek: Deep Space Nine6.64.5%5%2 June 1999Syndication
119The O.C.6.64.2%6%22 February 2007Fox
119Diagnosis: Murder6.64.9%10%11 May 2001CBS
122Party of Five6.54.8%8%3 May 2000Fox
122Yes, Dear6.54.4%6%15 February 2006CBS
122Living Single6.54.5%7%1 January 1998Fox
125Crossing Jordan6.44.3%7%16 May 2007NBC
125Family Matters6.44.5%8%17 July 1998CBS
127Step by Step6.34.3%8%26 June 1998CBS
128Hannah Montana6.93.5%5%16 January 2011Disney Channel
129King of the Hill6.03.5%5%13 September 2009Fox
130My Wife and Kids5.94.2%7%17 May 2005ABC
131Ugly Betty5.74.2%7%15 April 2010ABC
132The Drew Carey Show5.43.7%7%8 September 2004ABC
133Angel5.33.3%5%19 May 2004WB
134Buffy the Vampire Slayer4.92.9%5%20 May 2003UPN
134Gilmore Girls4.93.1%5%15 May 2007CW
136My Name Is Earl4.83.2%6%14 May 2009NBC
137Sister, Sister4.73.3%6%23 May 1999WB
138George Lopez4.63.1%5%8 May 2007ABC
139Charmed4.52.8%5%21 May 2006WB
140Reba4.42.8%5%18 February 2007CW
140The Parkers4.42.8%5%10 May 2004UPN
140Heroes4.42.8%4%8 February 2010NBC
143According to Jim4.12.5%4%2 June 2009ABC
143Everwood4.12.6%4%5 June 2006WB
143Joey4.1[118]2.5%4%8 February 2010NBC
146Star Trek: Enterprise3.82.2%4%13 May 2005UPN
147Felicity3.72.6%4%22 May 2002WB
148Scrubs3.52.3%4%17 March 2010ABC
1497th Heaven3.32.1%4%13 May 2007CW
149Prison Break3.32.0%4%15 May 2009Fox
151Smallville3.2[119]1.8%3%13 May 2011The CW
152Guiding Light3.02.2%3%18 September 2009CBS
152WCW Monday Night Nitro3.02.2%3%26 March 2001TNT
154As the World Turns2.82.1%3%17 September 2010CBS
155Battlestar Galactica2.4[120]1.4%3%20 March 2009Syfy
156Rescue Me2.3[121]N/AN/A7 September 2011FX
157Stargate SG-12.2N/AN/A13 March 2007Sci-Fi Channel
158Dollhouse2.1[122]0.8%3%29 January 2010Fox
159Veronica Mars2.10.8%2%22 May 2007CW
The finale is not necessarily a show's most watched episode. Friends, for example, had 52.9 million viewers for a 1996 episode that followed Super Bowl XXX7th Heaven's initial finale was watched by 7.8 million on the WB, but was picked up by the new network The CW, however the show was cancelled after another season and its final episode was watched by 3.3 million people.
[edit]M*A*S*H and Cheers finales
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][123] 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.[124] Regular episodes of M*A*S*H were thirty minutes long, but the final episode was two hours and thirty minutes.

[edit]Most watched U.S. TV series

Nielsen began compiling ratings for television beginning in 1950. Prior to that year, television ratings were compiled by a number of other sources, including C. E. Hooper (which was bought out by Nielsen in February 1950) and Variety.
American Idol holds the record for most consecutive seasons at #1, with eight, while All in the Family, and The Cosby Show share second place for most consecutive seasons at #1, with five each.
These are the programs that finished with the highest average Nielsen rating in each television season:
1950–1951Texaco Star TheaterNBC
1951–1952Arthur Godfrey's Talent ScoutsCBS
1952–1953I Love Lucy
1955–1956The $64,000 Question
1956–1957I Love Lucy
19611962Wagon TrainNBC
19621963The Beverly HillbilliesCBS
19671968The Andy Griffith ShowCBS
19681969Rowan and Martin's Laugh-InNBC
19701971Marcus Welby, M.D.ABC
19711972All in the FamilyCBS
19761977Happy DaysABC
19771978Laverne and Shirley
1979198060 MinutesCBS
1982198360 Minutes
19851986The Cosby ShowNBC
19891990(tie) The Cosby Show
(tie) RoseanneABC
1991199260 MinutesCBS
19992000Who Wants to Be a MillionaireABC
20002001Survivor:Australian OutbackCBS
20032004American IdolFox
20102011American IdolFox
20112012NBC Sunday Night FootballNBC

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