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These Are the 100 Most-Watched TV Shows of the 2015-16 Season: Winners and Losers

Our complete ratings ranker of the top 100 shows on broadcast and cable TV.

The Walking Dead Norman Reedus & Andrew Lincoln

AMC

In television, the pigskin remains king. NBC’s “NFL Sunday Night Football” averaged around 22 million viewers last fall, making it the most-watched program in all of TV during the just-completed 2015-2016 season.

According to NBC, this was the most-watched season for an NFL primetime package in 19 years, and the highest-rated year ever for “Sunday Night Football.” Meanwhile, in the key adults 18-49 demographic, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was once again No. 1, averaging a 9.6 rating when seven days’ worth of DVR and VOD usage is included.

CBS stalwarts “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS” remain juggernauts, even in their ninth and 13th seasons, respectively, and ended the season as the most-watched comedy and drama on TV. ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and the Monday edition of NBC’s “The Voice” tied for largest alternative series audience.

READ MORE:
Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2016’s Winners and Losers
Top-Rated Telecasts of 2016: ‘The Walking Dead,’ Super Bowl, Oscars, Olympics Lead

IndieWire combed through the Season-to-Date rankers for broadcast and cable, using the most recent Live+7 ratings (which include seven days’ worth of DVR and video on-demand usage).

Before production on the new season gets underway, here’s a final look at some of the hits and misses of 2015–2016, followed by our complete list of the most-watched shows of the season, according to both adults 18-49 and total viewers.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, "The X-Files"

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, “The X-Files”

Fox

WINNERS

“The X-Files”: Critics may not have been thrilled with the return of Mulder and Scully, but fans sure were. The six-episode “X-Files” revisit was the top-rated new show (if you can call it a new show) of the TV season, ranking seventh among adults 18-49. That explains why Fox is still eager to bring the show back for another edition, even if it likely won’t happen until at least the 2017-2018 TV season.

“The Walking Dead” franchise: Those zombies have been very, very good to AMC. “The Walking Dead” is once again the No. 1 show of the year among adults 18-49 (repeating from last year), while companion series “Fear the Walking Dead” clocked in at No. 11. “Fear” is the top-rated new show on cable. Meanwhile, Chris Hardwick’s “Talking Dead” chat show isn’t far behind, tied at No. 20 (and far ahead of most scripted series on TV).

READ MORE: Network TV Carnage: What’s Canceled, What’s Renewed and What’s New

Dick Wolf: In a year where most shows saw viewership erosion, the super producer’s “Chicago” franchise is on fire. Flagship “Chicago Fire” averaged 11.6 million viewers, up from 10.8 million last year; “Chicago PD” posted 10.4 million, up from 10.1 million last year. Newcomer “Chicago Med” (10.7 million) is also in the top 50 most-viewed series, while Wolf’s stalwart “Law & Order: SVU” is also averaging a strong 9.8 million, just a tick down from last year.

Love & Hip Hop: A lot of reality franchises do well, but this VH1 show landed three versions in the top 100 list this year among adults 18-49: “Love & Hip-Hop,” “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” and “Love & Hip Hop Hollywood.”

Jennifer Carpenter and Jake McDorman, "Limitless"

Jennifer Carpenter and Jake McDorman, “Limitless”

CBS

LOSERS

“Limitless”: The CBS drama averaged 10.3 million viewers, placing it at No. 34 (tied with “How to Get Away with Murder”) in the total viewers top 50. It also averaged a respectable 2.4 rating among adults 18-49. And yet, the movie adaptation was canceled after just one season. The show was reportedly shopped to streaming services Netflix and Amazon after CBS canceled it, but sister CBS TV Studios couldn’t find another home for it.

New physical endurance reality shows: NBC’s “Strong” (3.1 million) and Fox’s “American Grit” (2.6 million) failed to motivate viewers.

“Heroes Reborn” and “The Muppets”: These reboots were almost as highly anticipated as “The X-Files,” and didn’t perform that bad, once time-shifting is included. But they didn’t perform well enough to justify continuing, given their poor reception with critics and viewers.

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”: Hey, this one is tough. We love it too. And it’s been renewed for another season, so don’t sweat it. But the cold, hard truth is The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was the least-watched broadcast network series of the 2015-2016 TV season, averaging 1 million viewers. (The good news: More of the CW’s young audience probably caught it on another platform.)

Here are the top series rankers according to adults 18-49 and total viewers, featuring seven days of time-shifted viewing [except for the final few weeks of the season, when Live+3 or Live+same day numbers are substituted]. Most recent data is through May 25; these ratings will be updated as new numbers come in.

TOP 100 SHOWS, ADULTS 18-49

America’s most-watched series of the 2015-2016 season in the key advertising demographic (measured in ratings points) are …

1

The Walking Dead AMC

9.6

2

NFL Sunday Night Football NBC

7.8

3

Empire Fox

6.6

4

NFL Thursday Night Football CBS/NFL Network

6.0

5

The Big Bang Theory CBS

5.8

6

Game of Thrones HBO

5.0

7

The X-Files Fox

4.8

8

NFL Monday Night Football ESPN

4.6

9

Modern Family ABC

4.4

10

Grey’s Anatomy ABC

3.7

11

Fear the Walking Dead AMC

3.6

12

Scandal ABC

How to Get Away with Murder ABC

The Voice (Monday) NBC

3.5

15

Blindspot NBC

American Horror Story FX

The Voice (Tuesday) NBC

3.3

18

NCIS CBS

The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story FX

3.1

20

 American Idol (Wednesday) Fox

 Talking Dead AMC

 Criminal Minds CBS

 The Bachelor ABC

3.0

24

The Goldbergs ABC

2.9

25

Survivor CBS

Chicago Fire NBC

Black-ish ABC

The Blacklist NBC

American Idol (Thursday) Fox

Scorpion CBS

2.8

31

Law & Order: SVU NBC

The Bachelorette ABC

Life in Pieces CBS

Into the Badlands AMC

2.7

35

 Chicago PD NBC

 Quantico ABC

 The Middle ABC

 Lucifer Fox

2.6

39

NFL Thursday Night Football NFL Network (without CBS)

Chicago Med NBC

Supergirl CBS

NCIS: New Orleans CBS

2.5

43

Gotham Fox

Little Big Shots NBC

Limitless CBS

2.4

46

2 Broke Girls CBS

Shades of Blue NBC

Once Upon a Time ABC

Mom CBS

2.3

50

 Family Guy Fox

 Heroes Reborn NBC

 The Flash The CW

 Dancing with the Stars ABC

2.2

54

The Simpsons Fox

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ABC

NCIS: Los Angeles CBS

Better Call Saul AMC

Shark Tank ABC

Superstore NBC

2.1

60

Mike & Molly CBS

Scream Queens Fox

Code Black CBS

Blue Bloods CBS

2.0

64

Castle ABC

Fresh off the Boat ABC

Angel from Hell CBS

Love & Hip Hop Atlanta VH1

The Odd Couple CBS

Downton Abbey (Masterpiece) PBS

Gold Rush Discovery

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Fox

The Last Man on Earth Fox

Teen Mom MTV

Love & Hip Hop VH1

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders CBS

New Girl Fox

The Muppets ABC

1.9

78

60 Minutes CBS

Hawaii Five-O CBS

Masterchef Junior Fox

Real Housewives of Atlanta Bravo

Last Man Standing ABC

Love & Hip Hop Hollywood VH1

Elementary CBS

Rosewood Fox

Nashville ABC

Teen Mom II MTV

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris NBC

1.8

89

Bones Fox

The Amazing Race CBS

Saturday Night Football ABC

Hell’s Kitchen Fox

South Park Comedy Central

Grimm NBC

The Catch ABC

1.7

96

American Crime ABC

Madam Secretary CBS

Wayward Pines Fox

Preacher AMC

1.6

100

Arrow The CW

The Biggest Loser NBC

Blood & Oil ABC

CSI: Cyber CBS

Dr. Ken ABC

The Mysteries of Laura NBC

Person of Interest CBS

The Real O’Neals ABC

1.5

Source: Nielsen Media Research, 2015-2016 season to date through May 25, 2016, in ratings points. Excludes repeats, sports pregame and postgame shows, and football overruns.

TOP 50 SHOWS, TOTAL VIEWERS

America’s most-watched series of the 2015-2016 season are …

1

NFL Sunday Night Football NBC

22.0

2

The Big Bang Theory CBS

20.6

3

NCIS CBS

20.5

4

The Walking Dead AMC

18.9

5

NFL Thursday Night Football CBS/NFL Network

17.7

6

Empire Fox

16.2

7

NCIS: New Orleans CBS

16.1

8

Blue Bloods CBS

14.6

9

 Dancing With the Stars ABC

13.7

10

The X-Files Fox

13.6

11

The Voice (Monday) NBC

13.5

12

Scorpion CBS

13.3

13

The Voice (Tuesday) NBC

13.2

14

Little Big Shots NBC

13.0

15

NFL Monday Night Football ESPN

12.9

16

Criminal Minds CBS

12.8

17

Madam Secretary CBS

12.4

18

60 Minutes CBS

12.3

19

Modern Family ABC

NCIS: Los Angeles CBS

12.1

21

Hawaii Five-O CBS

11.7

22

Blindspot NBC

Chicago Fire NBC

11.6

24

 The Blacklist NBC

 American Idol (Wednesday) Fox

 Downton Abbey (Masterpiece) PBS

Grey’s Anatomy ABC

11.5

28

Survivor CBS

11.2

29

American Idol (Thursday) Fox

11.1

30

Scandal CBS

The Good Wife CBS

10.8

32

 Chicago Med NBC

10.7

33

Life in Pieces CBS

10.5

34

 Chicago PD NBC

10.4

35

Limitless CBS

How to Get Away with Murder ABC

10.3

37

Code Black CBS

10.2

38

Game of Thrones HBO

10.1

39

 Supergirl CBS

10.0

40

Castle ABC

 Shades of Blue NBC

9.9

42

Law & Order: SVU NBC

Mom CBS

9.8

44

The Bachelor ABC

9.5

45

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders CBS

9.4

46

The Middle ABC

9.2

47

Elementary CBS

9.1

48

Angel from Hell CBS

9.0

49

The Odd Couple CBS

8.7

50

Mike & Molly CBS

The Goldbergs ABC

8.8

Source: Nielsen Media Research, 2015-2016 season to date through May 25, 2016, in millions. Excludes repeats, sports pregame and postgame shows, and football overruns.

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Comments

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Peter

Thanks for the list. It was really a time saver.

Don

What about the big ten channel.

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