What Did Audiences Watch Most in 2021?

What Did Audiences Watch Most in 2021?


There are many ways to watch TV these days. But traditional linear remains the 800 lb gorilla. 


With that in mind, we analyzed a year’s worth of glass-level data from Inscape to share the most popular linear TV programs of the year by percentage of minutes actually watched. No guesswork. No extrapolation. Just hard data on what programs actually appeared on the screen based on duration. 


The result is a mix of reinforcing assumptions as well as interesting surprises. Here’s what we found. 


(all data from VIZIO’s 19 million+ active, opted-in smart TVs)


Football Scores Again

While neither NFL or college football airs year-round, the number of games available at the same time during their respective seasons, coupled with the immense popularity of the sport, means football once again dominates the list. 


NFL games lead as the No. 1 most-watched programming for the year, with a healthy 2.7% of overall minutes watched. College football places second, with 1.3%. Both are the only two that broke 1% of overall minutes watched. 


Sports, Sports, And More Sports

Given the frequency of games and the coverage surrounding them, it’s perhaps no surprise that other sports than football also placed high on the list. Among the top 10 most-watched TV programming for the year, NBA games place fourth (0.76% of watch-time), SportsCenter sixth (0.70%), and the Tokyo Olympics seventh (0.66%). 


Taken together with football, sports programming secured five of the top 10 spots, with MLB games just below at No. 11 (0.52%). 


It’s On Again? 

Broadcast TV shows are a constant presence on the programming grid, both new episodes and those in syndication. With 23 seasons in and counting, Law & Order: SVU has the edge. With both a loyal fan base and no shortage of reruns to work through, the show ranks No. 3 by minutes watched with 0.86%). 


Friends checks in at ninth place with 0.66% of minutes watched, and Chicago P.D. is at 0.56%. 


The Best Part Of Waking Up? 

Turns out people like their morning talk shows. They’re on nearly every day, which gives them a frequency advantage few other types of programs enjoy, and as such, puts them well into the top 10 of most-watched programs of the year. 


Leading the pack is Good Morning America, in fifth place with 0.72% of minutes watched, while  Today sits in eighth with 0.66%. 


Here’s the full top 25, with a breakdown of the top 10 for some subsets below. 



1. NFL 
2. College Football
3. NBA 
4. SportsCenter
5. Tokyo Olympics
6. MLB 
7. PGA Tour 
8. Men’s College Basketball
9. 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
10. First Take



  1. 1. Law & Order: SVU
  2. 2. Chicago P.D. 
  3. 3. NCIS: New Orleans
  4. 4. NCIS
  5. 5. Blue Bloods
  6. 6. Gunsmoke
  7. 7. Law & Order
  8. 8. NCIS: Los Angeles
  9. 9. Chicago Fire
  10. 10. Hawaii Five-O



  1. 1. ABC World News Tonight
  2. 2. Tucker Carlson Tonight
  3. 3. NBC Nightly News
  4. 4. America Reports
  5. 5. The Ingraham Angle
  6. 6. CBS Evening News
  7. 7. Outnumbered
  8. 8. Morning Joe
  9. 9. Fox News Primetime
  10. 10. Deadline: White House


Want to learn more about VIZIO’s watch-time data? Click the “Get In Touch” below to schedule an appointment with our team. 

Get in touch