There are a few takeaways to be gleaned from Nielsen’s annual top TV report. Namely, football remains king in America. And Roseanne, before her unfortunate tweets forced ABC to cease doing business with her, was its queen.
According to the ratings service, Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles surprised the country by beating Tom Brady’s typically dominant New England Patriots, was 2018’s most-watched single telecast with an average of more than 104 million viewers tuning in. Number-two was the Super Bowl post-game show, with nearly 74 million viewers. Numbers three and four were NFC playoff games on Fox with more than 42 million and nearly 36 million viewers, respectively.
NBC’s This Is Us, which aired right after the Super Bowl, was the top-rated scripted series at number five, averaging 33-plus million viewers. The only other single episode of a scripted series to make the list was ABC’s Roseanne, which premiered on March 27 with 27.3 million viewers.
All of the other programs were the Winter Olympics or football, except ABC’s Oscars telecast on March 4 in eighth place with an average of 27.4 million viewers. While Oscars ratings are down year to year, and that appears to be of concern to ABC and the Motion Picture Academy, the show’s ratings are still strong compared to everything else on television in this very fragmented ratings environment.
While many pundits have pronounced broadcast television dead, or at the very least, dying, 2018’s top ten regularly scheduled programs all aired on the Big Three networks ABC, CBS and NBC.
Roseanne led this list with an average of nearly 20 million viewers tuning in, followed by NBC Sunday Night Football, an average of only 400,000 viewers behind Roseanne. ABC’s other entry on this list was Monday night’s The Good Doctor in eighth with 14.5 million viewers.
CBS’ stalwart, The Big Bang Theory, came in third with 18.3 million viewers, followed by CBS’ NCIS in fourth with 16.7 million viewers. Big Bang’s spin-off show, Young Sheldon, came in sixth with nearly 16 million viewers tuning in on average, and its Dr. Phil McGraw-inspired drama, Bull, came in tenth with 13.5 million viewers.
NBC’s This Is Us also took fifth on this list, with an average audience of 16.6 million viewers. NBC’s hot rookie series, Manifest, came in seventh with almost 15 million viewers on average, and its reality competition program America’s Got Talent, took ninth with 14.3 million viewers.
Cable programs led when it came to the percentage of viewership gained by time-shifting, with AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, leading. The critically acclaimed Saul saw a whopping 429% increase in viewers as a result of time-shifting.
Saul was followed by USA’s The Sinner, which saw a 352% gain, and Showtime’s Shameless, which jumped 320%. FX’s American Horror Story and Mayans M.C., in fourth and fifth, saw gains of 313% and 305%, respectively, due to DVR-viewing. The basic cable network’s Golden Globe-nominated The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story scored seventh on this list with a 271% gain.
Paramount Network’s new entry, Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, gained 280% via delayed viewing, landing in sixth. In eighth place was the reboot no one knew they wanted, MTV’s Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, which jumped 244% in delayed viewing.
In ninth and tenth are TNT’s The Alienist and Bravo’s Real Housewives Beverly Hills, which added 236% and 222%, respectively.
When it came to actual audience gains due to time-shifting, the list was all broadcasters, with Roseanne and This Is Us showing their strength. Roseanne added nearly 11 million viewers due to DVR-watching, while This Is Us added nearly 8.7 million viewers.
Manifest came in third with a nearly 8.6 million viewership gain, while another new NBC series, New Amsterdam, was in seventh, increasing by nearly 6.65 million viewers.
The Big Bang Theory, NCIS and Young Sheldon came in fourth, sixth and eighth, respectively, with Bang adding 8.4 million viewers, NCIS gaining 6.8 million and Sheldon inflating by 6.3 million.
ABC’s The Good Doctor, the only ABC series on this last list, was in fifth, jumping nearly 7 million viewers, while the only Fox series to make the ranker, 911, was in ninth with a more than 6 million viewer jump.
AMC’s The Walking Dead was the only basic cable series to make this list, adding nearly 6 million more viewers due to delayed viewing.