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The 50 Most Watched Network and Cable TV Shows of 2021-2022

Ellen Gutoskey
Kevin Costner in 'Yellowstone.'
Kevin Costner in 'Yellowstone.' / Paramount Network
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In recent years, many of TV’s biggest shows have come from streaming services—from Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso and Netflix’s Bridgerton to Disney+’s The Mandalorian and beyond. And as those streamers continue to lean hard into original content, we’re left to wonder what current offerings people still watch on old-fashioned channels.

In a word, football. Variety compiled the viewership stats across network and cable channels for the 2021-2022 TV season and found that three of the four most watched programs were weekly football broadcasts. NBC’s Sunday Night Football is the most popular, with just over 18.1 million viewers, followed by Fox’s Thursday Night Football at about 15.4 million. Monday night games on ESPN landed in fourth place, slightly edged out of third by everyone’s favorite dad show: Paramount Network’s Kevin Costner-starring Yellowstone.

All sports and rancher dynasties aside, viewers tend to tune into crime and procedural dramas more than anything. NCIS, FBI, Blue Bloods, and The Equalizer made the top 10, along with 60 Minutes and Chicago Fire. NBC’s Chicago universe at large has a broader fanbase than strictly-streaming TV lovers might realize: Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med are both in the top 15. In other words, Dick Wolf’s domination of network TV isn’t over. As co-creator of the Chicago, FBI, and Law & Order franchises, he has a total of nine shows in the top 50.

Network sitcoms aren’t exactly living up to the precedent set by classics like Friends and Seinfeld, but they’re not extinct yet: CBS’s The Big Bang Theory prequel series Young Sheldon took 12th place. And when it comes to reality TV, long-running competition series continue to reign supreme: The Voice, Survivor, and American Idol all made the top 50.

Scroll on to see if your (or your parents’) favorite show did too, and check out Variety’s full list here.

  1. NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC) // 18.14 million
  2. NFL Thursday Night Football (Fox/NFL Network) // 15.4 million
  3. Yellowstone (Paramount Network) // 11.31 million
  4. NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN) // 11.23 million
  5. NCIS (CBS) // 11.01 million
  6. FBI (CBS) // 10.35 million
  7. Chicago Fire (NBC) // 9.92 million
  8. Blue Bloods (CBS) // 9.78 million
  9. The Equalizer (CBS) // 9.45 million
  10. 60 Minutes (CBS) // 9.38 million
  11. Chicago P.D. (NBC) // 9.26 million
  12. Young Sheldon (CBS) // 9.22 million
  13. Chicago Med (NBC) // 9.2 million
  14. FBI: Most Wanted (CBS) // 8.85 million
  15. NFL Thursday Night Football (NFL Network) // 8.78 million
  16. Ghosts (CBS) // 8.41 million
  17. NCIS: Hawai'i (CBS) 8.34 million
  18. FBI: International (CBS) // 8.31 million
  19. The Voice - Tuesday (NBC) // 8.28 million
  20. 9-1-1 (Fox) // 8.15 million
  21. The Voice - Monday (NBC) // 8.12 million
  22. This Is Us (NBC) // 8 million
  23. 9-1-1: Lone Star (Fox) // 7.46 million
  24. Bull (CBS) // 7.45 million
  25. La Brea (NBC) // 7.43 million
  26. Survivor (CBS) // 7.42 million
  27. NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) // 7.35 million
  28. Magnum P.I. (CBS) // 7.34 million
  29. American Idol (ABC) // 7.26 million
  30. The Good Doctor (ABC) // 7.14 million
  31. American Idol - Monday (ABC) // 6.99 million
  32. Law & Order: SVU (NBC) // 6.84 million
  33. CSI: Vegas (CBS) // 6.8 million
  34. The Neighborhood (CBS) // 6.76 million
  35. Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS) // 6.7 million
  36. Grey's Anatomy (ABC) // 6.51 million
  37. S.W.A.T. (CBS) // 6.5 million
  38. The Rookie (ABC) // 6.43
  39. Dancing with the Stars (ABC) // 6.3 million
  40. Station 19 (ABC) // 6.22 million
  41. New Amsterdam (NBC) // 6.17 million
  42. Law & Order (NBC) // 6.08 million
  43. The Masked Singer (Fox) // 5.88 million
  44. United States of Al (CBS) // 5.86 million
  45. Seal Team (CBS) // 5.83 million
  46. Big Sky (ABC) // 5.74 million
  47. B Positive (CBS) // 5.69 million
  48. Law & Order: Organized Crime (NBC) // 5.56 million
  49. The Amazing Race (CBS) // 5.5 million
  50. The Cleaning Lady (Fox) // 5.17 million

[h/t Variety]

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