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.

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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 20 July 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 02:56 in Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom and 03:56 in France, Germany, Italy and Spain) and it was not broadcasted 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 14 January 1973, is reported to have reached 1 billion viewers globally.[17][18][unreliable source?] Some breakdowns of the figures suggest 40% of the Japanese television audience,[19] and 91.8% of the television audience in the Philippines,[20] with an estimated 51% of the American television audience[19] when it aired later in America on 4 April 1973.[19][21]

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,[22] 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.[23]

The annual Eurovision Song Contest is reported to have between 100 and 600 million viewers, depending on the source.[24][25]

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.[26] The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was expected to draw a global audience of two billion,[27] but only drew a verified audience of 161 million viewers from 47% of the world population.[23] Other examples are the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer,[28][29] the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales[26][30][31] Michael Jackson's memorial service,[32] and the rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners in 2010.[33]



The list below is the top ten most watched broadcasts in Australia since 2001 as measured by OzTAM. 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 Final: Marat Safin def. Lleyton Hewitt4,045,00002005-01-012005Seven Network
22003 Rugby World Cup Final4,016,00002003-01-012003Seven Network
3MasterChef Australia (season 2) – finale challenge3,962,00002010-07-2525 July 2010Network Ten
4MasterChef Australia (season 1) – winners announcement3,560,00002009-07-1919 July 2009Network Ten
52006 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony3,560,00002006-01-012006Nine Network
62005 AFL Grand Final (Sydney Swans v West Coast Eagles)3,386,00002005-01-012005Network Ten
7Australian Idol: The final verdict3,344,00002004-01-012004Network Ten
8The Voice Australia: Grand final/Winner announced3,325,00002012-06-1818 June 2012Nine Network


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) in Vancouver. A confirmed 16.6 million Canadians watched the whole game, roughly one-half of the country's entire population.[34] A groundbreaking 26.5 million Canadians watched some part of the game, over 80 percent of the country's 34-million-person population.[35] According to multiple sources, 13.3 million Canadians watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, which was the previous record.[36]

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.[37]


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.[38][39] The programme, broadcast on one of China's three channels from 1981 to 1989,[38] has been estimated to have attracted a nightly audience of 350 million people during the early 1980s.[39]


The 2011 Cricket World Cup Final was watched by 135 million viewers across the country in cable & satellite, terrestrial and DTH homes aMap.[40] 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 INR2.4 million (US$44,000), prior to the final.[41] Over 1 billion people watched the cricket game between India and Pakistan.


RankShowEpisodeNumber of ViewersShareDateNetwork
12010 FIFA World CupGermany vs Spain (semi-final)31.10 million1, 483.2%02010-07-077 July 2010Das Erste
22006 FIFA World CupGermany vs Italy (semi-final)29.66 million1, 2, 384.1%02006-07-044 July 2006ZDF
32010 FIFA World CupGhana vs. Germany (group game)29.19 million1, 479.7%02010-06-2323 June 2010Das Erste
4UEFA Euro 2008Germany vs Turkey (semi-final)29.43 million181.8%02008-06-2525 June 2008ZDF
51990 FIFA World CupWest Germany vs Argentina (final)28.66 million01990-07-099 July 1990Das Erste
6UEFA Euro 1996Germany vs Czech Republic (final)28.44 million76.3%01996-06-3030 June 1996ZDF
7UEFA Euro 2008Austria vs Germany (group game)28.04 million1, 576.9%02008-06-1616 June 2008ZDF
8UEFA Euro 2012Germany vs Italy (semi-final)27.98 million 676.8%02012-06-2828 June 2012Das Erste
9The Black Forest Clinic"Die Schuldfrage" (engl.: The question of guilt)27.97 million01985-11-1717 November 1985ZDF
102010 FIFA World CupGermany vs Australia (group game)27.91 million1, 474.4%02010-06-1313 June 2010Das Erste
11UEFA Euro 2008Portugal vs Germany (quarter-final)27.70 million1, 578.7%02008-06-1919 June 2008Das Erste
12UEFA Euro 2012Denmark vs Germany (group game)27.65 million74.2%02012-06-1313 June 2012ZDF
13UEFA Euro 2012Netherlands vs Germany (group game)27.22 million74.9%02012-06-1717 June 2012Das Erste
142002 FIFA World CupGermany vs Brazil (final)27.09 million88.0%02002-06-3030 June 2002ZDF
  1. Public viewing areas were not included in these ratings.
  1. The approximated rating is about 60 to 70 million.[42]
  1. The extra time reached even 31.31 million viewers.[43]
  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.

New Zealand

The following are the most watched television programmes or events in New Zealand since 1 January 1995, according to Nielsen TAM ratings.[45][46]

RankProgramme/EventNumber of viewers
12011 Rugby World Cupfinal between New Zealand and France2,037,00002011-10-2323 October 2011TV One / TV3 / Sky / Māori
22011 Rugby World Cup – semifinal between New Zealand and Australia2,024,00002011-10-1616 October 2011TV One / TV3 / Sky / Māori
32011 Rugby World Cup – opening game between New Zealand and Tonga1,930,00002011-09-099 September 2011TV One / Sky / Māori
4Boxing match between David Tua and Lennox Lewis1,841,00002000-11-1212 November 2000TV3
5One News special – Death of Diana, Princess of Wales1,703,00001997-08-3131 August 1997TV One
62000 Summer Olympics – opening ceremony1,654,00002000-09-1515 September 2000TV One
7One News special – Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales1,650,00001997-09-066 September 1997TV One
82011 Rugby World Cup – quarter-final between New Zealand and Argentina1,624,00002011-10-099 October 2011TV One / TV3 / Sky / Māori
92003 Rugby World Cupfinal between England and Australia1,605,00002003-11-2222 November 2003TV One
10Martin Bashir's interview with Diana, Princess of Wales1,517,00001995-11-2121 November 1995TV2
112011 Rugby World Cup – opening ceremony1,499,00002011-09-099 September 2011TV One
122007 Rugby World Cup – quarter-final between New Zealand and France1,410,00002007-10-077 October 2007TV3


Here are the 30 all-time highest rating Philippine TV shows in the history of AGB-Nielsen Media Research based from the overnight ratings tabulation of AGB Nielsen Philippines (established in 1992) in Mega Manila as of February 2008. 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.[47]

1The Battle: Pacquiao vs. Morales83.5%2006ABS-CBN
3Meteor Garden63.8%2003ABS-CBN
5Miss Universe 199462.5%1994ABS-CBN
6Pangako sa 'Yo62.1%2002ABS-CBN
8Maria Mercedes59.7%1996ABS-CBN
9Miss Universe 199958.4%1999RPN
10Bubble Gang57.6%1997GMA
11Maalaala Mo Kaya57.3%1992ABS-CBN
12Balitang K56.6%1998ABS-CBN
14TV Patrol56%1996ABS-CBN
16Magandang Gabi, Bayan55%2000ABS-CBN
18Mula sa Puso53.7%1997ABS-CBN
19Pacquiao vs. Barrera52.9%2004RPN
202005 SEA Games52.6%2005ABC
21Basta't Kasama Kita52.5%2003ABS-CBN
22Star Circle Quest52.3%2004ABS-CBN
26Pinoy Big Brother50.4%2005ABS-CBN
27Will to Win II: Pacquiao vs. Barrera50%2007GMA
30Star Circle Quest48.2%2004ABS-CBN

United Kingdom

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).

RankShowEpisodeNumber of viewers
1EastEndersDen divorces Angie.30.15[48]01986-12-2525 December 1986*BBC One
2EastEnders28.00[49]01987-01-011 January 1987*BBC One
3Coronation StreetHilda Ogden leaves26.65[49]01987-12-2525 December 1987*ITV (Granada)
4Only Fools and Horses"Time on Our Hands"24.35[50]01996-12-2929 December 1996BBC One
5EastEnders24.30[51]01992-01-022 January 1992*BBC One
6Royal Variety Performance 1965Shirley Bassey, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore24.20[52]01965-11-1414 November 1965ITV (ATV)
7EastEnders24.15[53]01988-01-077 January 1988*BBC One
8To the Manor BornSeries 1 Finale23.95[54]01979-11-1111 November 1979BBC One
9Miss World 196723.76[52]01967-11-1919 November 1967BBC One
10EastEnders23.55[55]01985-12-2626 December 1985*BBC One
11PanoramaPrincess Diana22.78[56]01995-11-2020 November 1995BBC One
12Royal Variety Performance 197522.66[54]01975-11-1616 November 1975ITV (ATV)
13This Is Your LifeLord Mountbatten22.22[54]01977-04-2727 April 1977ITV (Thames)
14Sunday Night at the London Palladium21.89[52]01967-12-033 December 1967ITV (ATV)
15The Benny Hill Show21.67[54]01971-03-2424 March 1971ITV (Thames)
=16DallasJ. R. Ewing's shooter is revealed21.60[57]01980-11-2222 November 1980BBC One
=16Coronation Street21.60[51]01992-01-088 January 1992ITV (Granada)
18Eurovision Song Contest 197321.56[54]01973-04-077 April 1973BBC One
19Steptoe and Son21.54[52]01964-02-1818 February 1964BBC One
20The Mike Yarwood ShowMike Yarwood Christmas Show21.40[54]01977-12-2525 December 1977BBC One
=20Coronation Street21.40[55]01985-01-022 Jan 1985ITV (Granada)
22Coronation Street21.36[52]01964-12-022 December 1964ITV (Granada)
23Only Fools and Horses"If They Could See Us Now"21.35[58]02001-12-2525 December 2001BBC One
24Morecambe and WiseMorecambe and Wise Christmas Show21.30[54]01977-12-2525 December 1977BBC One

Most watched films

(by total number of viewers;[59] dates are when the films were broadcast, not necessarily when they were produced.)

RankShowNumber of viewersDateNetwork
1Live and Let Die23.50 million01980-01-2020 January 1980ITV
2Jaws23.25 million01981-10-088 October 1981ITV
3The Spy Who Loved Me22.90 million01982-03-2828 March 1982ITV
4Diamonds Are Forever22.15 million01981-03-1515 March 1981ITV
5Crocodile Dundee21.75 million01989-12-2525 December 1989BBC1

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 HRH The Princess Anne, shown only on BBC1.

RankEpisodeNumber of viewers
11966 FIFA World Cup Final32.30[52]01966-07-3030 July 1966BBC One/ITV
2Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales32.10[51]01997-09-066 September 1997BBC One/ITV
3Royal Family (documentary)30.69[52]01969-06-2121 June 1969 and 01969-06-2828 June 1969BBC One/ITV
4Apollo 13 splashdown28.60[54]01970-04-1717 April 1970BBC One/ITV
5FA Cup Final replay: Chelsea vs. Leeds28.49[54]01970-04-2929 April 1970BBC One/ITV
6Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer28.40[57]01981-07-2929 July 1981BBC One/ITV
7Wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips27.60[54]01973-11-1414 November 1973BBC One
82012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony24.46[60]02012-08-1212 August 2012BBC One
92012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony24.24[61]02012-07-2727 July 2012BBC One
10JFK Assassination – News Broadcast24.15[52]01963-11-2222 November 1963BBC One/ITV

Most watched programmes per year

YearProgrammeDateNumber of Viewers (millions)Network
1981Film: Jaws8 Oct 198123.30[63]ITV
1982Film: The Spy Who Loved Me28 March 198222.90[64]ITV
1983Coronation Street23 February 198318.45[65]ITV
1984The Royal Variety Performance 198425 November 198420.55[66]BBC One
1985EastEnders26 December 198523.55[55]BBC One
1986EastEnders25 December 198630.15[48]BBC One
1987EastEnders1 January 198728.00[49]BBC One
1988Eastenders5 February 198824.15[67]BBC One
1989Film: Crocodile Dundee25 December 198921.77[68]BBC One
1990Neighbours26 January 199021.16[69]BBC One
1991Coronation Street25 November 199120.45[70]ITV
1992Coronation Street22 January 199222.45[71]ITV
1993Coronation Street22 March 199320.73[72]ITV
1994Torvill and Dean – Olympic Ice Dance Championship21 February 199423.95[73]BBC One
1995Panorama Special: Princess Diana20 November 199522.78[56]BBC One
1996Only Fools and Horses29 December 199624.35[50]BBC One
1997Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales6 September 199719.29[74]BBC One
1998World Cup 98: England v Argentina30 June 199823.78[75]ITV
1999Coronation Street7 March 199919.82[76]ITV
2000Coronation Street3 January 200018.96[77]ITV
2001Only Fools & Horses25 December 200121.35[58]BBC One
2002Only Fools & Horses25 December 200217.40[78]BBC One
2003Coronation Street24 February 200319.43[79]ITV
2004Euro 2004: England v Portugal24 June 200420.66[80]BBC One
2005Coronation Street21 February 200514.36[81]ITV
2006World Cup 2006: England v Sweden20 June 200618.46[82]ITV
2007EastEnders25 December 200714.38[83]BBC One
2008Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death25 December 200816.15[84]BBC One
2009Britain's Got Talent Final Result30 May 200918.29[85]ITV
2010The X Factor Results12 December 201016.55[86]ITV
2011The Royal Wedding29 April 201113.59[87]BBC One
20122012 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony12 August 201224.46[88]BBC One
2013Call the Midwife3 February 201310.85[89]BBC One

United States

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[90]60.2%77%01983-02-2828 February 1983CBS
2Cheers84.4[90]45.5%64%[91]01993-05-2020 May 1993NBC
3Seinfeld76.3[90]41.3%58%01998-05-1414 May 1998NBC
4Friends52.46[90][92]29.8%43%02004-05-066 May 2004NBC
5The Tonight Show
Starring Johnny Carson
50.0[90]N/AN/A01992-05-2222 May 1992NBC
6The Cosby Show44.4[90]28.0%45%01992-04-3030 April 1992NBC
7All in the Family40.2[90][93]26.6%43%01979-04-088 April 1979CBS
8Family Ties36.320.8%35%01989-05-1414 May 1989NBC
9Home Improvement35.5[94]21.6%[95]43%[94]01999-05-2525 May 1999ABC
10Frasier33.7[92]16.3%25%02004-05-1313 May 2004NBC
11Dallas33.322.0%38%01991-05-033 May 1991CBS
12Everybody Loves Raymond32.9[92]20.2%29%02005-05-1616 May 2005CBS
13Gunsmoke30.9[93]N/AN/A01975-03-3131 March 1975CBS
14The Fugitive30.0[96]45.9%72%01967-08-2929 August 1967ABC
15Newhart29.518.7%29%01990-05-2121 May 1990CBS
16Star Trek: The Next Generation27.820%34%01994-05-2323 May 1994Syndication
17The Golden Girls27.218.9%38%01992-05-099 May 1992NBC
18Full House24.314.6%25%01995-05-2323 May 1995ABC
19St. Elsewhere22.5[93]17%29%01988-05-2525 May 1988NBC[97]
20MacGyver22.313.8%26%01992-05-2121 May 1992ABC
21Miami Vice22.214.7%23%01989-05-2121 May 1989NBC
22L.A. Law22.115.9%27%01994-05-1919 May 1994NBC
23ALF21.713.1%24%01990-03-2424 March 1990NBC
24Growing Pains21.113.3%24%01992-04-2525 April 1992ABC
25The Wonder Years21.013.9%23%01993-05-1212 May 1993ABC
26Quantum Leap20.613.7%23%01993-05-055 May 1993NBC
27Who's the Boss?20.512.7%24%01992-04-2525 April 1992ABC
28The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air19.913.1%22%01996-05-2020 May 1996NBC
29Mad About You19.813.6%20%01999-05-2424 May 1999NBC
30Knots Landing19.613.9%22%01993-05-1313 May 1993CBS
31Bonanza19.3[93] ? ?01973-01-1616 January 1973NBC
32Designing Women18.814.2%22%01993-05-2424 May 1993CBS
33Matlock18.713.2%20%01995-05-077 May 1995ABC
34Will & Grace18.411.7%18%02006-05-1818 May 2006NBC
35The Facts of Life18.213.2%29%01988-05-077 May 1988NBC
36Jake and the Fatman18.112.9%20%01992-05-066 May 1992CBS
37Major Dad17.912.6%20%01993-04-1616 April 1993CBS
38Murphy Brown17.512.3%19%01998-05-1818 May 1998CBS
39Beverly Hills, 9021016.811.9%21%02000-05-1717 May 2000Fox
40Roseanne16.611.6%19%01997-05-2020 May 1997ABC
41Murder, She Wrote16.512.3%21%01996-05-1919 May 1996CBS
42ER16.410.4%17%02009-04-022 April 2009NBC
43NYPD Blue16.110.4%17%02005-03-011 March 2005ABC
44Miami Vice16.111.0%21%01989-06-2828 June 1989NBC
45Married... with Children15.210.0%16%01997-05-055 May 1997Fox
46In the Heat of the Night15.010.9%17%01995-05-1616 May 1995CBS
47Kate & Allie14.911.9%20%01989-05-2222 May 1989CBS
48Dynasty14.710.8%17%01989-05-1111 May 1989ABC
49Monday Night Football14.4[98]9.2%16%02005-12-2626 December 2005ABC
50Wings14.210.2%16%01997-05-2121 May 1997NBC
51JAG14.0[99]9.0%15%02005-04-2929 April 2005CBS
52Mr. Belvedere13.88.5%16%01990-07-088 July 1990ABC
53Lost13.67.5%13%02010-05-2323 May 2010ABC
54Evening Shade13.59.6%15%01994-05-2323 May 1994CBS
55The King of Queens13.58.8%13%02007-05-1414 May 2007CBS
56Doogie Howser, M.D.13.49.2%14%01993-03-2424 March 1993ABC
57Providence13.39.0%16%02002-12-2020 December 2002NBC
58Life Goes On13.28.9%17%01993-05-2323 May 1993ABC
59The X-Files13.2[100]7.9%12%02002-05-1919 May 2002Fox
60Coach13.19.3%16%01997-05-1414 May 1997ABC
61Touched by an Angel12.9[101]8.9%15%02003-04-2727 April 2003CBS
62Amen12.98.3%19%01991-05-1111 May 1991NBC
63The Walking Dead12.49.3%15%02013-03-3131 March 2013Amc
64Falcon Crest12.39.3%15%01990-05-1717 May 1990CBS
65Desperate Housewives11.99.0%14%02012-05-1313 May 2012ABC
653rd Rock from the Sun11.97.9%13%02001-05-2222 May 2001NBC
66The Sopranos11.96.5%11%02007-06-1010 June 2007HBO
67Empty Nest11.68.7%17%01995-04-2929 April 1995NBC
68Ally McBeal11.57.5%11%02002-05-2020 May 2002Fox
69Homicide: Life on the Street11.48.4%15%01999-05-2121 May 1999NBC
70Without a Trace11.27.3%12%02009-05-1919 May 2009CBS
71The Nanny11.18.1%14%01999-05-1212 May 1999CBS
72Picket Fences11.18.2%14%01996-04-2424 April 1996CBS
73The Practice10.97.5%13%02004-05-1616 May 2004ABC
74Walker, Texas Ranger10.86.8%13%02001-05-1919 May 2001CBS
75Judging Amy10.87.6%12%02005-05-033 May 2005CBS
76Sex and the City10.6[102] ? ?02004-02-2222 February 2004HBO
77Becker10.67.3%11%02004-01-2828 January 2004CBS
78Grace Under Fire10.57.4%11%01998-02-1717 February 1998ABC
79Highway to Heaven10.57.1%16%01989-08-044 August 1989NBC
80Melrose Place10.47.3%12%01999-05-2424 May 1999Fox
81Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman10.26.7%15%01998-05-1616 May 1998CBS
82Sisters10.17.1%14%01996-05-044 May 1996NBC
83The West Wing10.16.2%10%02006-05-1414 May 2006NBC
84That '70s Show10.06.0%10%02006-05-1818 May 2006Fox
85Boy Meets World10.06.1%12%02000-05-055 May 2000ABC
86Cold Case10.06.4%11%02010-05-022 May 2010CBS
87Boston Legal9.96.2%10%02008-12-088 December 2008ABC
88Ellen9.97.1%11%01998-05-1313 May 1998ABC
89Wizards of Waverly Place9.8[103]7.1%11%02012-01-066 January 2012Disney Channel
90The Closer9.87.1%11%02012-08-1313 August 2012TNT
91The District9.76.6%12%02004-05-011 May 2004CBS
92The Unit9.65.8%10%02009-05-1010 May 2009CBS
93Monk9.4[104][105]5.5%9%02009-12-044 December 2009USA Network
94A Different World9.36.6%14%01993-05-088 May 1993NBC
95Nash Bridges9.16.3%12%02001-05-044 May 2001CBS
96The Pretender9.06.2%12%02000-05-1313 May 2000NBC
97Third Watch9.06.1%11%02005-05-066 May 2005NBC
98248.9[106]5.2%8%02010-05-2424 May 2010Fox
99Star Trek: Voyager8.85.5%9%02001-05-2323 May 2001UPN
100House8.75.8%11%02012-05-2121 May 2012Fox
101NewsRadio8.66.5%11%01999-05-044 May 1999NBC
102Moonlighting8.65.7%10%01989-05-1414 May 1989ABC
103Numb3rs8.35.1%9%02010-05-1414 May 2010CBS
104Ed8.25.8%10%02004-02-066 February 2004NBC
105Caroline in the City8.16.3%10%01999-04-2626 April 1999NBC
106Las Vegas8.05.0%9%02008-02-1515 February 2008NBC
107Cosby7.95.2%10%02000-04-2828 April 2000CBS
108Law & Order7.85.1%9%02010-05-2424 May 2010NBC
109Drake and Josh7.8 ? ?02007-08-033 August 2007Nickelodeon
110Medium7.84.9%9%02011-01-2121 January 2011CBS
111Malcolm in the Middle7.54.8%7%02006-05-1414 May 2006Fox
112Chicago Hope7.55.8%9%02000-05-044 May 2000CBS
1132277.55.0%8%01990-05-066 May 1990NBC
114Dawson's Creek7.34.8%7%02003-05-1414 May 2003WB
115Profiler7.25.2%10%02000-05-066 May 2000NBC
116Brothers & Sisters7.2[107]4.9%8%02011-05-088 May 2011ABC
117The New Adventures of Old Christine7.14.6%6%02010-05-1212 May 2010CBS
118Zoey 1017.13.1%5%02007-05-088 May 2007Nickelodeon
119Spin City6.94.8%7%02002-04-3030 April 2002ABC
120Ghost Whisperer6.84.4%9%02010-05-2121 May 2010CBS
121Alias6.74.5%7%02006-05-2222 May 2006ABC
122Dharma & Greg6.74.7%8%02002-04-3030 April 2002ABC
123The O.C.6.64.5%6%02007-02-2222 February 2007Fox
124Star Trek: Deep Space Nine6.64.5%5%01999-06-022 June 1999Syndication
125Diagnosis: Murder6.64.9%10%02001-05-1111 May 2001CBS
126Party of Five6.54.8%8%02000-05-033 May 2000Fox
127Yes, Dear6.54.4%6%02006-02-1515 February 2006CBS
128Living Single6.54.5%7%01998-01-011 January 1998Fox
129Crossing Jordan6.44.3%7%02007-05-1616 May 2007NBC
130Family Matters6.44.5%8%01998-07-1717 July 1998CBS
131iCarly6.4[108]3.4%[109]02012-11-2323 November 2012Nickelodeon
132Step by Step6.34.3%8%01998-06-2626 June 1998CBS
133Hannah Montana6.93.5%5%02011-01-1616 January 2011Disney Channel
134King of the Hill6.03.5%5%02009-09-1313 September 2009Fox
135My Wife and Kids5.94.2%7%02005-05-1717 May 2005ABC
136Ugly Betty5.74.2%7%02010-04-1515 April 2010ABC
137Avatar: The Last Airbender5.6[110]3.1%[110] ?02008-07-1919 July 2008Nickelodeon
138The Drew Carey Show5.43.7%7%02004-09-088 September 2004ABC
139Angel5.33.3%5%02004-05-1919 May 2004WB
140Talking Dead5.13.2%6%02013-03-3131 March 2013Amc
141Buffy the Vampire Slayer4.92.9%5%02003-05-2020 May 2003UPN
142Gilmore Girls4.93.1%5%02007-05-1515 May 2007CW
14330 Rock4.881.9%5%02013-01-3131 January 2013NBC
145My Name Is Earl4.83.2%6%02009-05-1414 May 2009NBC
146Sister, Sister4.73.3%6%01999-05-2323 May 1999WB
147George Lopez4.63.1%5%02007-05-088 May 2007ABC
148Charmed4.52.8%5%02006-05-2121 May 2006WB
147Reba4.42.8%5%02007-02-1818 February 2007CW
148The Parkers4.42.8%5%02004-05-1010 May 2004UPN
149Heroes4.42.8%4%02010-02-088 February 2010NBC
150Chuck4.31.3%4%02012-01-2727 January 2012NBC
151According to Jim4.12.5%4%02009-06-022 June 2009ABC
152Everwood4.12.6%4%02006-06-055 June 2006WB
153Joey4.1[111]2.5%4%02010-02-088 February 2010NBC
154One Life to Live3.82.7%4%02012-01-1313 January 2012ABC
155Star Trek: Enterprise3.82.2%4%02005-05-1313 May 2005UPN
156Felicity3.72.6%4%02002-05-2222 May 2002WB
157Scrubs3.5 / 5.072.3%4%02010-03-1717 March 2010ABC/NBC
1587th Heaven3.32.1%4%02007-05-1313 May 2007CW
159Prison Break3.32.0%4%02009-05-1515 May 2009Fox
160Fringe3.2[112]1.9%3%02013-01-1818 January 2013Fox
161Smallville3.02[113]1.8%3%02011-05-1313 May 2011The CW
162Guiding Light3.02.2%3%02009-09-1818 September 2009CBS
163WCW Monday Nitro3.02.2%3%02001-03-2626 March 2001TNT
164"Victorious"2.92.2%3%02013-02-022 February 2013Nickelodeon
165As the World Turns2.82.1%3%02010-09-1717 September 2010CBS
166Battlestar Galactica2.4[114]1.4%3%02009-03-2020 March 2009Syfy
167Rescue Me2.3[115]N/AN/A02011-09-077 September 2011FX
168Stargate SG-12.2N/AN/A02007-03-1313 March 2007Sci-Fi Channel
169Dollhouse2.1[116]0.8%3%02010-01-2929 January 2010Fox
170Veronica Mars2.10.8%2%02007-05-2222 May 2007CW
171One Tree Hill2.00.9%3%02012-04-044 April 2012CW
172Gossip Girl1.420.8%2%02012-12-1717 December 2012CW

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 XXX. 7th 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.

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.[91][117] 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.[118] 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

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 No. 1, with eight. Note however that American Idol usually airs two episodes a week; for the 2003–2004 season, only the Tuesday show was ranked No. 1, overall American Idol was ranked No. 2 that season. For the show taken as a whole, it was No. 1 for seven consecutive seasons.[119] All in the Family, and The Cosby Show share second place for most consecutive seasons at No. 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
1961–1962Wagon TrainNBC
1962–1963The Beverly HillbilliesCBS
1967–1968The Andy Griffith ShowCBS
1968–1969Rowan and Martin's Laugh-InNBC
1970–1971Marcus Welby, M.D.ABC
1971–1972All in the FamilyCBS
1976–1977Happy DaysABC
1977–1978Laverne & Shirley
1979–198060 MinutesCBS
1982–198360 Minutes
1985–1986The Cosby ShowNBC
1989–1990(tie) The Cosby Show
(tie) RoseanneABC
1991–199260 MinutesCBS
1999–2000Who Wants to Be a MillionaireABC
2000–2001Survivor:Australian OutbackCBS
2002–2003CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationCBS
2003–2004American IdolFox
2010–2011American IdolFox
2011–2012NBC Sunday Night FootballNBC



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