Football, ‘Yellowstone’ & ‘This Is Us’ Top Lists Of Most Watched & Time-Shifted Linear TV Programs In 2020

Nielsen has released 2020 Top 10 lists of the most watched telecasts and series on linear television as well as the programs with the biggest delayed viewing lifts. Most of the titles on the charts are broadcast programs whose ratings periods go by seasons from September to May. Cable networks’ rankers are based on a calendar year.

Carrying the flag for cable on the Top 10 lists are Paramount Network’s Yellowstone, posting the biggest % viewership increase after seven days of playback; AMC’s The Walking Dead, No.7 on the same list; and ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoff National Championship.

The Top 10 list of most watched telecasts (in Live+7) is dominated by football, with only Fox’s The Masked Singer and ABC’s The Oscars from entertainment programming making the cut.

CBS’ NCIS, FBI and Blue Bloods were the most watched non-sports series of 2020. Not surprisingly, these are older-skewing dramas as Nielsen’s ratings reflect live viewing and playback; most younger viewers consume scripted TV shows on demand via non-linear platforms.

It’s worth noting that two of the top three time-shifted programs (in % viewership increase) are no longer on the air, ABC’s Emergence and Stumptown. Leading the pack in absolute L+7 viewership game is NBC’s flagship drama This Is Us.

Nielsen’s report also reveals that, while streaming video has exploded during the pandemic, linear viewing also has posted some gains. Q2 2020 live and time-shifted TV consumption among people 18 and older increased by an average of 4 minutes per day (to 4 hours: 8 minutes) from the prior year. Overall, in the second quarter of this year, consumers 18 and older spent just shy of 6 hours each day with video, an increase of 35 minutes from the prior-year period, per Nielsen.


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