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Volume 23 No. 9
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The shield’s TV dominance continues

Sports accounted for 92 of the top 100 most-watched telecasts in 2019, with NFL games taking up 78 spots alone.
Super Bowl LIII had the largest viewership last year, as more than 98 million people watched on CBS as the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.
Photo: AP images
Super Bowl LIII had the largest viewership last year, as more than 98 million people watched on CBS as the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.
Photo: AP images
Super Bowl LIII had the largest viewership last year, as more than 98 million people watched on CBS as the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.
Photo: AP images

Despite the absence of an Olympic Games in 2019, sports rose to record prominence among the 100 most-viewed U.S. television broadcasts for the calendar year.

Among the most-viewed broadcasts on TV (excluding any pregame/red carpet shows and the State of the Union address), sports accounted for 92 of the top 100. That figure is up from 88 for sports in both 2018 and 2016 (Olympics years), and up from 81 in 2017.

Another uptick for the NFL in 2019 contributed to an even greater presence for the shield, with 78 game windows ranking in the top 100. That is up from 63 in 2018 and 64 in 2017. The NFL accounted for 9 of the top 10 most-watched telecasts on TV — the Oscars ranked No. 9 — and 23 of the top 25. When taking into account college football, the sport had 83 of the top 100.

Clemson’s win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game (No. 17) was the top non-NFL sports telecast in 2019, aided by ESPN’s megacast approach. Rounding out the top five non-NFL for sports: World Series Game 7 (No. 26 overall); the CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl (No. 43); the men’s NCAA tournament championship game (No. 49); and NBA Finals Game 6 (No. 53).

Among the sports outliers this year were the Kentucky Derby, which used its best audience since 2010 to come in at No. 78 on the chart. The U.S.’s win over the Netherlands in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final also cracked the list (No. 100).

Perhaps more evident than ever was the dearth of scripted TV on the list in 2019. There were seven non-live programs in the top 100 in 2018. That shrank to just three in 2019. Looking forward, the number is likely to get even smaller, with perhaps the post-Super Bowl show the only recorded program to make the list. But live nonsports events continued to have a presence in the top 100, led by the Oscars, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Grammys, the Golden Globes and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.