Top Rated Shows of 2022: Yellowstone, NCIS, Oscars, FBI, Super Bowl

What did we watch on good ol’ fashioned linear TV in 2022? Sports — and more specifically, football. No surprise, an average of nearly 100 million viewers watched the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI in February, up from last year’s Big Game (92.9 million).

Variety’s annual list of the year’s 100 most-watched primetime telecasts found that 66 slots went to sports — broken down by 40 NFL games, six each for NBA Finals and the MLB World Series; six for the Winter Olympics; three for the College Football championships; and two for the NCAA Basketball March Madness.

That doesn’t leave much room for entertainment telecasts — but the good news for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is that the Oscars came roaring back to this year’s chart. The Oscars regained its longtime title as the year’s most-watched entertainment telecast, at 17.6 million viewers, a year after it didn’t even make the top 100 in 2021. (The Oscars also managed to regain that distinction since NBC opted not to air an entertainment telecast after the Super Bowl, but instead returned to the Winter Olympics that night.)

In an era where awards shows are challenged, it’s heartening to see two make the chart, as the Grammys also landed in the top 100 — at No. 97, with 10.2 million viewers in April.

But those are specials. When it comes to episodic scripted TV, only 24 episodes make it to the list of the year’s most-watched primetime telecasts. Leading the pack: “Yellowstone,” and its Season 4 finale on January 2, 2022. That episode, “Grass on the Streets and Weeds on the Rooftops,” averaged 13.1 million viewers. That makes it the most-watched episode of any regularly scheduled entertainment series in 2022, broadcast or cable.

“Yellowstone” also boast the second-most watched episode of the year, the Season 5 premiere on November 13. “Yellowstone” landed six episodes on the year-end telecast ranker, while CBS’ “NCIS” led with nine episodes total. Other series making the cut included CBS’ “FBI” (seven), and one each for NBC’s “Chicago Hope” and CBS’ “NCIS Hawai’i.”

Also having a good year: CBS newsmagazine stalwart “60 Minutes,” now in its 55th season. The program scored eight slots in the top 100. No sitcoms or reality shows made the cut, nor did any specials this year besides the two awards shows.

Meanwhile, here’s how history was made this year: For the first time ever in this linear primetime chart, a streamer made it in. That’s right: Amazon Prime Video is on the top telecasts chart this year thanks to NFL Thursday Night Football, which is measured by Nielsen — yes the same panel measurement used for all national TV ratings. Thanks to watermarks/tags included in the content and picked up by Nielsen encoders, they are able to measure people watching on Prime Video wherever its available (smart TVs, web, mobile, etc). It also includes viewing from the two local stations in the markets of the two teams playing each week. (Those NFL cable games are measured the same way, with the local outlets included).

RELATED: Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2022’s Winners and Losers

Amazon Prime Video landed four Thursday Night Football telecasts in the top 100. Among all outlets, CBS once again led this year’s total viewer telecast ranker with 29 programs (up from 39 last year), followed by NBC with 26 (vs. 35 last year), then ABC (13), Fox (12), ESPN (9), Paramount Network (6), Amazon (4) and TBS (1).

Here are some of the winners of 2022:

The Oscars: Consider this a bit of an asterisk. The Academy Awards viewership is still a fraction of what it once was, but after a 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 — it was once again the year’s most-watched entertainment telecast in 2022. Credit the slap (or hosts Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes) but it recovered with 17.6 million viewers this year, making it the only non-sports program in the top 25.

“Yellowstone”: The Paramount Network juggernaut is still on a tear. Kevin Costner & Co. have beat out every broadcast show on television, clocking in the most-watched non-sports and non-Oscars telecast of the year: The Season 4 finale of “Yellowstone” on Jan. 2, which averaged 13.1 million viewers. The show holds down five of the top 10 entertainment slots in total viewers — and five of the top 10 slots in 18-49 as well.

Fox reality: Fox’s scheduling team has figured out how to hold on to huge sports lead-ins: Put accessible, easy-to-watch reality fare behind them. In adults 18-49, the biggest series telecast of the year was an episode of Fox’s new Gordon Ramsay series “Next Level Chef,” which aired behind the NFC championship on January 30. (“Next Level Chef” has been rewarded with the plum Super Bowl LVII lead-out as Fox carries the Big Game this coming February.) More recently, on Thanksgiving, the decision to run a “Masked Singer” episode behind the Giants-Cowboys game (which attracted 42.1 million viewers, the largest NFL in-season audience on record) also paid dividends.

“60 Minutes”: This boomer still has bite. The venerated newsmagazine, now in its 55th season, holds 8 of the year’s most-watched telecasts in primetime.

NFL football: It goes without saying. The Super Bowl, at No. 1 with an average of 100 million viewers, is in a league of its own. But overall, the NFL holds 22 of the top 25 primetime telecasts of the year (with just the College Football Championship, one night of the Winter Olympics and the Oscars filling those other three slots).

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: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.]

MOST-WATCHED PRIMETIME TELECASTS OF 2022 (TOTAL VIEWERS)

Rank PROGRAM (NETWORK) VIEWERS DATE AIRED
1. Super Bowl LVI: Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati (NBC) 99,659,000 2/13/2022
2. NFC Championship: LA Rams vs. San Francisco (Fox) 50,443,000 1/30/2022
3. AFC Playoff: Kansas City vs. Buffalo (CBS)      43,157,000 1/23/2022
4. NFC Playoff: San Francisco vs. Green Bay (Fox) 37,185,000 1/22/2022
5. NFL Playoff: Kansas City vs. Pittsburgh (NBC) 29,125,000 1/16/2022
6. AFC Wildcard Playoff: New England vs. Buffalo (CBS) 26,505,000 1/15/2022
7. NFL Thursday Night Special: New England vs. Minnesota (NBC) 24,899,000 11/24/2022
8. NFL Sunday Night Football: Tampa Bay vs. Dallas (NBC) 23,442,000 9/11/2022
9. College Football Championship: Georgia vs. Alabama (ESPN) 22,553,000 1/10/2022
10. Winter Olympics Sunday Prime 2 (NBC)         21,795,000 2/13/2022
11. NFL Sunday Night Football: Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay (NBC) 21,058,000 10/2/2022
12. NFL Sunday Night Football: Dallas vs. Philadelphia (NBC) 20,929,000 10/16/2022
13. NFL Thursday Night Special: Buffalo vs. LA Rams (NBC) 20,053,000 9/8/2022
14. NFL Sunday Night Football: Green Bay vs. Buffalo (NBC)      19,739,000 10/30/2022
15. NFL Sunday Night Football: Green Bay vs. Philadelphia (NBC) 19,693,000 11/27/2022
16. NFL Sunday Night Football: Chicago vs. Green Bay (NBC) 19,682,000 9/18/2022
17. NFL Sunday Night Football: Minnesota vs. Green Bay (NBC) 18,704,000 1/2/2022
18. NFL Sunday Night Football: Indianapolis vs. Dallas (NBC) 18,298,000 12/4/2022
19. NFL Sunday Night Football: Kansas City vs. LA Chargers (NBC) 18,063,000 11/20/2022
20. NFL Sunday Night Football: San Francisco vs. Denver (NBC) 17,893,000 9/25/2022
21. NFL Sunday Night Football: Tennessee vs. Kansas City (NBC) 17,875,000 11/6/2022
22. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Las Vegas (NBC) 17,867,000 1/9/2022
23. Oscars (ABC) 17,561,000 3/27/2022
24. NFL Sunday Night Football: Cincinnati vs. Baltimore (NBC) 16,003,000 10/9/2022
25. NFL Monday Night Football: Las Vegas vs. Kansas City (ESPN) 15,987,000 10/10/2022
26. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. San Francisco (NBC) 15,965,000 11/13/2022
27. NFL Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Miami (NBC) 15,621,000 10/23/2022
28. NBA Finals Game 6: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 14,224,000 6/16/2022
29. NFL Football: Dallas vs. Philadelphia (ABC) 13,802,000 1/8/2022
30. NBA Finals Game 5: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 13,149,000 6/13/2022
31. NFL Thursday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Kansas City (Amazon) 13,148,000 9/15/2022
32. Yellowstone, S4E10 “Grass on the Streets and Weeds on the Rooftops” (Paramount) 13,050,000 1/2/2022
33. NFL Monday Night Football: Buffalo vs. Tennessee (ABC) 12,948,000 9/19/2022
34. NFL Monday Night Football: Washington vs. Philadelphia (ESPN) 12,901,000 11/14/2022
35. NFL Wild Card Game: Arizona vs. LA Rams (ABC) 12,859,000 1/17/2022
36. World Series Game 5: Philadelphia vs. Houston (Fox) 12,830,000 11/3/2022
37. Yellowstone, S5E1 “One Hundred Years is Nothing” (Paramount) 12,684,000 11/13/2022
38. World Series Game 6: Philadelphia vs. Houston (Fox) 12,655,000 11/5/2022
39. 60 Minutes, S54E18 “The Betrayal, Chris Stapleton” (CBS) 12,337,000 1/16/2022
40. NBA Finals Game 4: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 12,248,000 6/10/2022
41. NCIS: Hawai’i, S1E12 “Spies, Part 1” (CBS)     12,247,000 1/23/2022
42. The OT (Fox) 12,170,000 9/25/2022
43. NFL Monday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Denver (ESPN) 12,113,000 10/17/2022
44. NBA Finals Game 2: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 12,009,000 6/5/2022
45. NFL Monday Night Football: Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh (ESPN) 11,914,000 1/3/2022
46. World Series Game 4: Philadelphia vs. Houston (Fox) 11,864,000 11/2/2022
47. NFL Thursday Night Football: Cincinnati vs. Miami (Amazon) 11,840,000 9/29/2022
48. Yellowstone, S5E2 “The Sting of Wisdom” (Paramount) 11,799,000 11/13/2022
49. Yellowstone, S5E4 “Horses in Heaven” (Paramount) 11,637,000 11/27/2022
50. NBA Finals Game 3: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 11,624,000 6/8/2022
51. World Series Game 1: Philadelphia vs. Houston (Fox) 11,568,000 10/28/2022
52. Winter Olympics Sunday Prime 1 (NBC) 11,517,000 2/6/2022
53. NBA Finals Game 1: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 11,494,000 6/2/2022
54. Winter Olympics Thursday Prime 1 (NBC) 11,473,000 2/10/2022
55. Yellowstone, S5E3 “Tall Drink of Water” (Paramount) 11,399,000 11/20/2022
56. 60 Minutes, S55E8 “Angry in America, Buses from the Border, Ready or Not” (CBS) 11,334,000 11/6/2022
57. NCIS, S19E12 “Fight or Flight” (CBS) 11,324,000 1/24/2022
58. FBI, S4E10 “Fostered” (CBS) 11,314,000 1/4/2022
59. NFL Monday Night Football: San Francisco vs. Arizona (ESPN) 11,302,000 11/21/2022
60. 60 Minutes, S55E5 “The Lost Souls of Bucha, The Power of Grimsby, Coach Prime” (CBS) 11,287,000 10/16/2022
61. World Series Game 3: Philadelphia vs. Houston (Fox) 11,200,000 11/1/2022
62. FBI, S4E11 “Grief” (CBS) 11,175,000 1/11/2022
63. Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony (NBC) 11,126,000 2/4/2022
64. NFL Thursday Night Football: Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh (Amazon) 11,067,000 9/22/2022
65. 60 Minutes, S55E12 “The French President, Return to Gorongosa, The South Dakota Kid” (CBS) 11,031,000 12/4/2022
66. NFL Monday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Indianapolis (ESPN) 11,012,000 11/28/2022
67. NFL Monday Night Football: San Francisco vs. LA Rams (ESPN) 10,973,000 10/3/2022
68. Yellowstone, S5E5 “Watch ‘Em Ride Away” (Paramount) 10,962,000 12/4/2022
69. NCIS, S19E15 “Thick as Thieves” (CBS) 10,958,000 3/14/2022
70. World Series Game 2: Philadelphia vs. Houston (Fox) 10,872,000 10/29/2022
71. FBI, S4E14 “Ambition” (CBS) 10,871,000 3/8/2022
72. FBI, S4E15 “Scar Tissue” (CBS) 10,831,000 3/22/2022
73. NCIS, S19E14 “First Steps” (CBS) 10,829,000 3/7/2022
74. 60 Minutes, S55E3 “Olena Zelenska; What Happened at Grizzly Flats; Captain Kolisi” (CBS) 10,797,000 10/2/2022
75. NCIS, S19E13 “The Helpers” (CBS) 10,786,000 2/28/2022
76. Big Ten Football Championship: Michigan vs. Purdue (Fox) 10,785,000 12/3/2022
77. NCIS, S19E11 “All Hands” (CBS) 10,775,000 1/17/2022
78. 60 Minutes, S55E1 “President Biden, Ebrahim Raisi” (CBS) 10,742,000 9/18/2022
79. Winter Olympics Saturday Prime 1 (NBC) 10,730,000 2/5/2022
80. NCIS, S19E17 “Starting Over” (CBS) 10,712,000 3/28/2022
81. Saturday Night Football: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame (ABC) 10,671,000 9/3/2022
82.  60 Minutes, S54E17 “The Big Quit/One Small Step/The Kicker” (CBS) 10,609,000 1/9/2022
83. FBI, S4E12 “Under Pressure” (CBS) 10,599,000 2/1/2022
84. 60 Minutes, S55E10 “The Most Dangerous Place in the World; The Panini Sticker Phenomenon; Wild Horses” (CBS) 10,585,000 11/20/2022
85. FBI, S4E16 “Protective Details” (CBS) 10,491,000 3/29/2022
86. The OT (Fox) 10,482,000 10/9/2022
87. NCIS, S19E10 “Pledge of Allegiance” (CBS) 10,480,000 1/3/2022
88. NCIS, S19E21 “Birds of a Feather” (CBS) 10,474,000 5/23/2022
89. NFL Monday Night Football: Chicago vs. New England (ESPN) 10,431,000 10/24/2022
90. NFL Thursday Night Football: Tennessee vs. Green Bay (Amazon) 10,418,000 11/17/2022
91. NCAA Basketball: Duke vs. Arkansas (TBS) 10,391,000 3/26/2022
92. Chicago Fire, S10E11 “Fog of War” (NBC) 10,382,000 1/12/2022
93. NFL Monday Night Football: Seattle vs. Denver (ABC) 10,349,000 9/12/2022
94. The OT (Fox) 10,336,000 10/30/2022
95. Winter Olympics Wednesday Prime 1 (NBC) 10,290,000 2/9/2022
96. NFL Monday Night Football: Dallas vs. NY Giants (ABC) 10,285,000 9/26/2022
97. Grammy Awards (CBS) 10,232,000 4/3/2022
98. NCAA Basketball: Purdue vs. St. Peter’s (CBS) 10,229,000 3/25/2022
99. FBI, S4E18 “Fear Nothing” (CBS) 10,215,000 4/19/2022
100. NCIS, S20E6 “The Good Fighter” (CBS) 10,179,000 10/24/2022
Source: Nielsen, 1/1/22 – 12/4/22. 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 2022 (ADULTS 18-49)

Rank PROGRAM (NETWORK) RATING (18-49) DATE AIRED
1. Super Bowl LVI: Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati (NBC) 29.60 2/13/2022
2. NFC Championship: LA Rams vs. San Francisco (Fox) 14.25 1/30/2022
3. AFC Playoff: Kansas City vs. Buffalo (CBS)      11.44 1/23/2022
4. NFC Playoff: San Francisco vs. Green Bay (Fox) 9.98 1/22/2022
5. NFL Playoff: Kansas City vs. Pittsburgh (NBC) 7.93 1/16/2022
6. NFL Thursday Night Special: New England vs. Minnesota (NBC) 7.09 11/24/2022
7.  AFC Wildcard Playoff: New England vs. Buffalo (CBS) 7.05 1/15/2022
8. NFL Sunday Night Football: Tampa Bay vs. Dallas (NBC) 6.73 9/11/2022
9.  College Football Championship: Georgia vs. Alabama (ESPN) 6.25 1/10/2022
10. NFL Sunday Night Football: Dallas vs. Philadelphia (NBC) 5.90 10/16/2022
11. NFL Thursday Night Special: Buffalo vs. LA Rams (NBC) 5.89 9/8/2022
12. Winter Olympics Sunday Prime 2 (NBC)         5.66 2/13/2022
13. NFL Sunday Night Football: Chicago vs. Green Bay (NBC) 5.59 9/18/2022
14. NFL Sunday Night Football: Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay (NBC) 5.54 10/2/2022
15. NFL Sunday Night Football: Green Bay vs. Buffalo (NBC)      5.37 10/30/2022
16. NFL Sunday Night Football: Green Bay vs. Philadelphia (NBC) 5.21 11/27/2022
17. NFL Thursday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Kansas City (Amazon) 5.09 9/15/2022
18. NFL Sunday Night Football: San Francisco vs. Denver (NBC) 5.06 9/25/2022
19. NFL Sunday Night Football: Minnesota vs. Green Bay (NBC) 5.01 9/2/2022
20. NFL Sunday Night Football: Indianapolis vs. Dallas (NBC) 4.88 12/4/2022
21. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Las Vegas (NBC) 4.87 1/9/2022
22. NFL Sunday Night Football: Tennessee vs. Kansas City (NBC) 4.77 11/6/2022
23. NFL Monday Night Football: Las Vegas vs. Kansas City (ESPN) 4.68 10/10/2022
24. NFL Sunday Night Football: Kansas City vs. LA Chargers (NBC) 4.65 11/20/2022
25. NFL Sunday Night Football: Cincinnati vs. Baltimore (NBC) 4.63 10/9/2022
26. NFL Thursday Night Football: Cincinnati vs. Miami (Amazon) 4.62 11/29/2022
27. NFL Sunday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. San Francisco (NBC) 4.52 11/13/2022
28. NFL Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Miami (NBC) 4.39 10/23/2022
29. NBA Finals Game 6: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 4.37 6/16/2022
30. NFL Thursday Night Football: Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh (Amazon) 4.29 9/22/2022
31. NBA Finals Game 5: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 4.00 6/13/2022
32. Oscars (ABC) 3.97 3/27/2022
33. NFL Thursday Night Football: Baltimore vs. Tampa Bay (Amazon) 3.88 10/27/2022
34. NFL Monday Night Football: Washington vs. Philadelphia (ESPN) 3.84 11/14/2022
35. NFL Monday Night Football: Buffalo vs. Tennessee (ABC) 3.83 9/19/2022
NFL Thursday Night Football: Indianapolis vs. Denver (Amazon) 3.83 10/6/2022
37.  NFL Monday Night Football: LA Chargers vs. Denver (ESPN) 3.76 10/17/2022
38. NBA Finals Game 2: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 3.73 6/5/2022
NFL Thursday Night Football: Tennessee vs. Green Bay (Amazon) 3.73 11/17/2022
40. NBA Finals Game 3: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 3.67 6/8/2022
41. NBA Finals Game 4: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 3.66 6/10/2022
42.  NBA Finals Game 1: Warriors vs. Celtics (ABC) 3.65 6/2/2022
43. NFL Thursday Night Football: Buffalo vs. New England (Amazon) 3.59 12/1/2022
44. NBA Playoffs: Celtics vs. Heat (ESPN) 3.49 5/29/2022
45. The OT (Fox) 3.47 9/25/2022
46. NFL Monday Night Football: San Francisco vs. Arizona (ESPN) 3.32 11/21/2022
47. NFL Monday Night Football: San Francisco vs. LA Rams (ESPN) 3.27 10/3/2022
48. NFL Thursday Night Football: Arizona vs. New Orleans (Amazon) 3.25 10/20/2022
49. NFL Thursday Night Football: Washington vs. Chicago (Amazon) 3.22 10/13/2022
50. NFL Football: Dallas vs. Philadelphia (ABC) 3.21 1/8/2022
Source: Nielsen, 1/1/21 – 12/5/21. 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).