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The 100 Most-Watched Telecasts of 2023: NFL, Oscars, Gordon Ramsay, ‘NCIS’ and a Single ‘Yellowstone’ Episode

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The dual Hollywood strikes wiped out much of the scripted programming this fall on the linear networks. And yet, according to Variety‘s annual list of the year’s 100 most-watched primetime telecasts, we actually watched more entertainment fare this year. CBS’ “NCIS” led the pack in 2023 with 12 episodes making the list, followed by the Eye’s “Blue Bloods,” with five.

Among regular episodic entertainment fare, the ranker included 35 entries — and it was represented by a wider range of shows. Part of that is because Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone” only aired one episode in 2023, freeing up more space for others.

Besides “NCIS” and “Blue Bloods,” other regular series with multiple episodes on the ranker include CBS’ “FBI,” NBC’s “Chicago Fire” and CBS’ “Young Sheldon,” at four each. On the news front, CBS’ “60 Minutes” continues to be a dominant force (its NFL lead-in doesn’t hurt), landing seven slots this year.

Make no mistake, the NFL still rules primetime, and that halo effect is real. Our ranker of the most-watched primetime telecasts in 2023 found that 56 slots went to sports — broken down by 45 NFL games, six for the NBA Finals, three for NCAA Basketball March Madness, and one each for college football and Fox’s “The OT” NFL postgame show. (There were no Olympics this year, and a dud of a World Series kept baseball out of the ranker.)

We also watched more of TV’s signature live events this year. Of course, that was led by Super Bowl LVII in February, when an average of nearly 115 million viewers watched the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles. There’s a continued trend upward from Super Bowl LVI in 2022 (100 million) and Super Bowl LV in 2021 (92.9 million).

Also on an upward climb is the Oscars, the year’s most-watched entertainment telecast. Back on March 12, 19.4 million people saw “Everything Everywhere All at Once” take the best picture prize — up from 17.6 million in 2022, and from a dismal 2021 when the ceremony didn’t even make the ranker.

But the Oscars isn’t the only big awards show making a nice recovery: CBS’ Grammys kudocast leapt up to No. 36 — vs. No. 97 last year — averaging 13.4 million viewers, compared to 10.2 million viewers in 2022.

RELATED: Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2023’s Winners and Losers

Among all outlets, CBS extended its lead with the most programs on the ranker, with 39 (up from 29 last year). That’s all the more impressive because most of the Eye’s most-watched shows in primetime are series episodes, as its NFL package is during the day and not counted here.

Next is NBC with 24 (vs. 26 last year), then ABC (15), Prime Video (11), Fox (7), ESPN (2) and one each for TNT and Paramount. (As we mentioned last year, Amazon Prime Video is once again on the top telecasts chart this year thanks to NFL Thursday Night Football, which is measured by Nielsen — thanks to watermarks/tags included in the content and picked up by Nielsen encoders. It also includes viewing from the two local stations in the markets of the two teams playing each week.)

Here are some of the winners of 2023:

Freshman series: NBC’s “Night Court,” Fox’s “Accused” and CBS’ “Fire Country” were all newbies with episodes making the cut. Those “Accused” and “Fire Country” episodes were strategically positioned airings behind NFL football, while NBC discovered that yes, revivals and reboots are still a viable way to generate a sizable audience.

The Oscars and the Grammys: Who says awards shows are dead? Well, we all do. But yet, the Academy Awards viewership is on a steady comeback, and could see a bump again in 2024 thanks to the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon. After the 2021 disaster — in which it didn’t even make the list of the year’s 100 most-watched telecasts, with a paltry 10.7 million viewers — the 2022 slap edition averaged 17.6 million viewers. And with host Jimmy Kimmel returning to his rightful place as host in 2023, the telecast is now back flirting with 20 million viewers on linear. And as for the Grammys, there’s a similar climb back to relevance, with 13.4 million viewers in 2023 (vs 10.2 million viewers in 2022).

“Next Level Chef”: Wow, does Fox love this Gordon Ramsay series. Last year, the premiere aired behind the NFC championship — making it the biggest series telecast of the year with adults aged 18-49. This year, the Season 2 premiere aired behind the Super Bowl — once again making it the most-watched entertainment telecast of the year in the demo.

Comedy: The laughs are back! After sitcoms missed being on the top 100 ranker completely last year, CBS’ “Young Sheldon” saved the day with four episodes. And NBC’s “Night Court” premiere also made the grade.

NFL football: I know, it’s getting old to mention this. Besides nothing coming close to the Super Bowl, the NFL held 14 of the top 15 slots this year.

Below, our ratings roundup of the year’s most-watched telecasts (in Live+7 ratings), according to broadcast and cable measurements, in both total viewers and adults 18-49.

For historical record, here are previous year-end telecast rankers: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

MOST-WATCHED PRIMETIME TELECASTS OF 2023 (TOTAL VIEWERS)

Rank PROGRAM (NETWORK) VIEWERS DATE AIRED
1. Super Bowl LVII: Kansas City vs. Philadelphia (Fox) 114,956,000 2/12/2023
2. AFC Championship: Kansas City vs. Cincinnati (CBS) 53,478,000 1/29/2023
3. NFC Playoff: San Francisco vs. Dallas (Fox)      45,864,000 1/22/2023
4. NFC Playoff: Philadelphia vs. NY Giants (Fox) 28,867,000 1/21/2023
5. NFL Playoff: Cincinnati vs. Baltimore (NBC) 27,083,000 1/15/2023
6. NFL Thursday Night Special: Detroit vs. Kansas City (NBC) 25,042,000 9/7/2023
7. NFL Sunday Night Football: Kansas City vs. NY Jets (NBC) 25,021,000 10/1/2023
8. NFL Thursday Night Special: San Francisco vs. Seattle (NBC) 25,006,000 11/23/2023
9. NFL Sunday Night Football: San Francisco vs. Dallas (NBC) 24,495,000 10/8/2023
10. NFL Sunday Night Football: Green Bay vs. Kansas City (NBC)         23,812,000 12/3/2023
11. NFL Sunday Night Football: Detroit vs. Green Bay (NBC) 22,412,000 1/8/2023
12. NFL Playoff Game: LA Chargers vs. Jacksonville (NBC) 20,817,000 1/14/2023
13. NFL Sunday Night Football: Philadelphia vs. Miami (NBC) 20,775,000 10/22/2023
14. NFL Sunday Night Football: Dallas vs. NY Giants (NBC)      20,308,000 9/10/2023
15. The Oscars (ABC) 19,412,000 3/12/2023
16. NFL Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Las Vegas (NBC) 19,324,000 9/24/2023
17. NFL Sunday Night Football: Denver vs. Minneapolis (NBC) 18,565,000 11/19/2023
18. NFL Sunday Night Football: Cincinnati vs. Buffalo (NBC) 18,492,000 11/5/2023
19. NFL Sunday Night Football: Miami vs. New England (NBC) 17,984,000 9/17/2023
20. NFL Wild Card Game: Dallas vs. Tampa Bay (ABC) 17,870,000 1/16/2023
21. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. LA Rams (NBC) 17,337,000 1/1/2023
22. Next Level Chef: S2E1 “A Next Level Welcome” (Fox) 16,893,000 2/12/2023
23. NFL Sunday Night Football: Buffalo vs. NY Giants (NBC) 16,794,000 10/15/2023
24. NFL Sunday Night Football: Baltimore vs. LA Chargers (NBC) 16,509,000 11/26/2023
25. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Chicago (NBC) 15,803,000 10/29/2023
26. NFL Sunday Night Football: Las Vegas vs. NY Jets (NBC) 15,735,000 11/12/2023
27. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Philadelphia vs. Kansas City (ABC) 15,714,000 11/20/2023
28. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland (ABC) 15,623,000 9/18/2023
29. NFL Thursday Night Football: Philadelphia vs. Minnesota (Prime Video) 15,375,000 9/14/2023
30. NFL Thursday Night Football: Dallas vs. Seattle (Prime Video) 15,355,000 11/30/2023
31. NCAA Basketball Championship: UConn vs. San Diego State (CBS) 14,794,000 4/3/2023
32. NFL Thursday Night Football: Kansas City vs. Denver (Prime Video) 14,077,000 10/12/2023
33. NFL Thursday Night Football: San Francisco vs. NY Giants (Prime Video) 14,034,000 9/21/2023
34. NFL Thursday Night Football: Detroit vs. Green Bay (Prime Video) 13,588,000 9/28/2023
35. NBA Finals Game 5: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 13,392,000 6/12/2023
36. Grammy Awards (CBS) 13,376,000 2/5/2023
37. NFL Thursday Night Football: Baltimore vs. Cincinnati (Prime Video) 13,086,000 11/16/2023
38. NCAA Basketball Final Four: UConn vs. Miami (CBS) 12,969,000 4/1/2023
39. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Jacksonville vs. Tennessee (ABC) 12,694,000 1/7/2023
40. 60 Minutes: S55,E17 “Prince Harry; Hans Zimmer” (CBS) 12,464,000 1/8/2023
41. 60 Minutes: S56,E1 “President Zelenskyy; Into the Streets; Prime Time in Colorado” (CBS)  12,352,000 9/17/2023
42. CBS NCAA Basketball Bridge (CBS) 12,285,000 4/1/2023
43. Fire Country: S1, E12 “Two Pink Lines” (CBS) 12,225,000 1/29/2023
44. NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Miami vs. Boston (TNT) 12,033,000 5/29/2023
45. NBA Finals Game 2: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 11,960,000 6/4/2023
46. NFL Thursday Night Football: Chicago vs. Washington (Prime Video) 11,777,000 10/5/2023
47. NFL Wildcard: Dallas vs. Tampa Bay (ESPN) 11,753,000 1/16/2023
48. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: NY Jets vs. Buffalo (ABC) 11,749,000 9/11/2023
49. NFL Monday Night Football: Philadelphia vs. Kansas City (ESPN) 11,642,000 11/20/2023
50. NFL Thursday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee (Prime Video) 11,591,000 11/2/2023
51. The OT (Fox) 11,474,000 9/24/2023
t. Yellowstone: S5E8 “A Knife and No Coin” (Paramount Network) 11,474,000 1/1/2023
53. NFL Thursday Night Football: Buffalo vs. Tampa Bay (Prime Video) 11,287,000 10/26/2023
54. NBA Finals Game 3: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 11,275,000 6/7/2023
55. NCIS: S20E10 “Too Many Cooks” (CBS) 11,254,000 1/9/2023
56. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Cincinnati vs. Buffalo (ABC) 11,168,000 1/2/2023
57. NBA Finals Game 1: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 11,108,000 6/1/2023
58. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Dallas vs. LA Chargers (ABC) 10,865,000 10/16/2023
59. Accused: S1E1 “Scott’s Story” (Fox) 10,604,000 1/22/2023
60. NCIS Hawai’i: S2E10 “Deep Fake” (CBS) 10,546,000 1/9/2023
61. NBA Finals Game 4: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 10,509,000 6/9/2023
t. 60 Minutes: S56,E6 “The Five Eyes; A Prisoner of Iran; Pink; The Isle of Man” (CBS)  10,509,000 10/22/2023
63. NCIS: S20E12 “Big Rig” (CBS) 10,495,000 1/23/2023
64. FBI: S5E10 “Second Life”(CBS) 10,397,000 1/3/2023
65. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Dallas vs. LA Chargers (ABC) 10,300,000 10/23/2023
66. FBI: S5E12 “Breakdown”(CBS) 10,275,000 1/24/2023
67. 60 Minutes: S56,E7 “VP Harris; A Quiet Invasion; The Air We Breathe; The State of the Blues” (CBS)  10,207,000 10/29/2023
68. 60 Minutes: S56,E4 “The Godfather of AI; General Milley; Rich Paul; 3D Printing” (CBS)  10,178,000 10/8/2023
69. NCIS: S20E16 “Butterfly Effect” (CBS) 10,167,000 3/13/2023
70. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Chicago vs. Minnesota(ABC) 10,157,000 11/27/2023
71. Big Ten Football Championship Game: Michigan vs. Iowa (Fox) 10,119,000 12/2/2023
72. NCIS: S20E13 “Evil Eye” (CBS) 10,106,000 2/6/2023
73. NCIS: S20E15 “Unusual Suspects” (CBS) 10,061,000 2/27/2023
74. NCIS: S20E14 “Old Wounds” (CBS) 9,993,000 2/13/2023
75. FBI: S5E11 “Heroes”(CBS) 9,990,000 1/10/2023
76. 60 Minutes: S55,E16 “Radio Free Europe; The Vanishing Wild; Obesity” (CBS)  9,980,000 1/1/2023
77. 60 Minutes: S55,E27 “Feeling of Feeling; Silicon Valley Scandal; Charles Barkley” (CBS)  9,974,000 3/26/2023
78. NCIS: Los Angeles: S14E10 “A Long Time Coming” (CBS) 9,962,000 1/9/2023
79. Young Sheldon: S6E14 “A Launch Party and a Whole Human Being” (CBS) 9,906,000 3/2/2023
80. FBI: S5E13 “Protégé”(CBS) 9,875,000 2/14/2023
81. NFL Thursday Night Football: Jacksonville vs. New Orleans (Prime Video) 9,839,000 10/19/2023
82.  NCIS: S20E18 “Head Games” (CBS) 9,834,000 4/10/2023
83. Young Sheldon: S6E15 “Teen Angst and a Smart-Boy Walk of Shame” (CBS) 9,790,000 3/9/2023
84. Blue Bloods: S13E14 “Collision Course (CBS) 9,718,000 3/3/2023
85. Blue Bloods: S13E11 “Lost Ones (CBS) 9,701,000 1/20/2023
86. Chicago Fire: S11E12 “How Does It End?” (NBC) 9,686,000 1/18/2023
t. Blue Bloods: S13E12 “The Big Leagues (CBS) 9,686,000 2/3/2023
88. NCIS: S20E21 “Kompromat” (CBS) 9,683,000 5/15/2023
89. Young Sheldon: S6E12 “A Baby Shower and a Testosterone-Rich Banter” (CBS) 9,662,000 2/9/2023
90. Chicago Fire: S11E11 “A Guy I Used to Know” (NBC) 9,650,000 1/11/2023
91. NFL Thursday Night Football: Chicago vs. Carolina (Prime Video) 9,640,000 11/9/2023
t. Young Sheldon: S6E9 “College Dropouts and the Medford Miracle” (CBS) 9,640,000 1/5/2023
93. NCIS: S20E17 “Stranger in a Strange Land” (CBS) 9,630,000 3/20/2023
94. Night Court: S1E1 “Pilot” (NBC) 9,628,000 1/17/2023
95. Blue Bloods: S13E9 “Nothing Sacred (CBS) 9,627,000 1/6/2023
96. NCIS: S20E22 “Black Sky” (CBS) 9,615,000 5/22/2023
97. NCIS: S20E19 “In the Spotlight” (CBS) 9,614,000 5/1/2023
98. Blue Bloods: S13E13 “Past History (CBS) 9,610,000 2/10/2023
99. Chicago Fire: S11E10 “Something for the Pain” (NBC) 9,606,000 1/4/2023
100. Chicago Fire: S11E14 “Run Like Hell” (NBC) 9,567,000 2/22/2023
Source: Nielsen, 1/1/23 – 12/3/23. L7 Data. All Telecasts, Broadcast and Cable (excluding telecasts with durations under 25 min, including SB and NFC). Broadcast Prime, telecast with start times within daypart (M-Sat 8P-11P; Sun 6:30P-11P).

THE 50 TOP-RATED PRIMETIME TELECASTS OF 2023 (ADULTS 18-49)

Rank PROGRAM (NETWORK) VIEWERS (18-49) DATE AIRED
1. Super Bowl LVII: Kansas City vs. Philadelphia (Fox) 45,511,000 2/12/2023
2. AFC Championship: Kansas City vs. Cincinnati (CBS) 18,785,000 1/29/2023
3. NFC Playoff: San Francisco vs. Dallas (Fox)      16,738,000 1/22/2023
4. NFC Playoff: Philadelphia vs. NY Giants (Fox) 10,479,000 1/21/2023
5. NFL Playoff: Cincinnati vs. Baltimore (NBC) 9,615,000 1/15/2023
6. NFL Thursday Night Special: Detroit vs. Kansas City (NBC) 9,328,000 9/7/2023
7.  NFL Thursday Night Special: San Francisco vs. Seattle (NBC) 9,322,000 11/23/2023
8. NFL Sunday Night Football: Kansas City vs. NY Jets (NBC) 8,827,000 10/11/2023
9.  NFL Sunday Night Football: San Francisco vs. Dallas (NBC) 8,772,000 10/8/2023
10. NFL Sunday Night Football: Dallas vs. NY Giants (NBC)      8,301,000 9/10/2023
11. NFL Thursday Night Football: Philadelphia vs. Minnesota (Prime Video) 7,784,000 9/14/2023
12. NFL Sunday Night Football: Philadelphia vs. Miami (NBC) 7,751,000 10/22/2023
13. NFL Sunday Night Football: Green Bay vs. Kansas City (NBC)         7,565,000 12/3/2023
14. NFL Sunday Night Football: Detroit vs. Green Bay (NBC) 7,540,000 1/8/2023
15. NFL Sunday Night Football: Miami vs. New England (NBC) 7,361,000 9/17/2023
16. NFL Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Las Vegas (NBC) 7,294,000 9/24/2023
17. NFL Playoff Game: LA Chargers vs. Jacksonville (NBC) 7,254,000 1/14/2023
18. Next Level Chef: S2E1 “A Next Level Welcome” (Fox) 6,925,000 2/12/2023
19. NFL Thursday Night Football: Dallas vs. Seattle (Prime Video) 6,874,000 11/30/2023
20. NFL Thursday Night Football: San Francisco vs. NY Giants (Prime Video) 6,852,000 9/21/2023
21. NFL Thursday Night Football: Kansas City vs. Denver (Prime Video) 6,515,000 10/12/2023
22. NFL Thursday Night Football: Detroit vs. Green Bay (Prime Video) 6,478,000 9/28/2023
23. NFL Sunday Night Football: Cincinnati vs. Buffalo (NBC) 6,471,000 11/5/2023
24. NFL Sunday Night Football: Denver vs. Minneapolis (NBC) 6,319,000 11/19/2023
25. NFL Sunday Night Football: Buffalo vs. NY Giants (NBC) 6,042,000 10/15/2023
26. NFL Thursday Night Football: Baltimore vs. Cincinnati (Prime Video) 6,039,000 11/16/2023
27. NFL Sunday Night Football: Baltimore vs. LA Chargers (NBC) 5,998,000 11/26/2023
28. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Chicago (NBC) 5,851,000 10/29/2023
29. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. LA Rams (NBC) 5,683,000 1/1/2023
30. NFL Thursday Night Football: Chicago vs. Washington (Prime Video) 5,675,000 10/5/2023
31. NFL Sunday Night Football: Las Vegas vs. NY Jets (NBC) 5,552,000 11/12/2023
32. NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Miami vs. Boston (TNT) 5,537,000 5/29/2023
33. NFL Monday Night Football on ABC: Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland (ABC) 5,460,000 9/18/2023
34. The Oscars (ABC) 5,442,000 3/12/2023
35. NFL Thursday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee (Prime Video) 5,374,000 11/2/2023
36. NBA Finals Game 5: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 5,372,000 6/12/2023
37.  NFL Monday Night Football: Philadelphia vs. Kansas City (ESPN) 5,239,000 11/20/2023
38. NFL Wild Card Game: Dallas vs. Tampa Bay (ESPN) 5,167,000 1/16/2023
39. NFL Thursday Night Football: Buffalo vs. Tampa Bay (Prime Video) 5,142,000 10/26/2023
40. NFL Wild Card Game: Dallas vs. Tampa Bay (ABC) 4,978,000 1/16/2023
41. NBA Finals Game 2: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 4,890,000 6/4/2023
42.  NCAA Basketball Championship: UConn vs. San Diego State (CBS) 4,881,000 4/3/2023
43. NFL Thursday Night Football: Jacksonville vs. New Orleans (Prime Video) 4,786,000 10/19/2023
44. NBA Finals Game 1: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 4,656,000 6/1/2023
45. NFL Monday Night Football: NY Jets vs. Buffalo (ESPN) 4,511,000 9/11/2023
46. NBA Finals Game 3: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 4,482,000 6/7/2023
47. NFL Thursday Night Football: Chicago vs. Carolina (Prime Video) 4,355,000 11/9/2023
48. NBA Finals Game 4: Denver vs. Miami (ABC) 4,241,000 6/9/2023
49. College Football: LSU vs. Mississippi State (ESPN) 4,187,000 9/16/2023
50. NBA Playoffs: LA Lakers vs. Golden State (ESPN) 4,140,000 5/12/2023
Source: Nielsen, 1/1/23 – 12/3/23. L7 Data. All Telecasts, Broadcast and Cable (excluding telecasts with durations under 25 min, including SB and NFC). Broadcast Prime, telecast with start times within daypart (M-Sat 8P-11P; Sun 6:30P-11P).