2018 Programming by the Numbers

The television industry put up some lofty audience viewing and content production numbers in 2018 as it continued to adjust to the changing viewing habits of consumers.

In 2018 more scripted shows were available to consumers than at any other time in history, yet it was big sports events like the Super Bowl that drew the most viewers to TV sets during the year, according to Nielsen.

Fox News Channel continued to dominate cable viewing among total viewers, averaging a record 2.4 million primetime viewers and 1.4 million viewers on a total day basis to lead all cable networks.

Here are five interesting TV ratings and audience numbers for the year that was:

104.1M — The biggest audience drawn for any television show in 2018 for NBC’s Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII coverage, according to Nielsen. NBC’s post-game coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles’ upset win over the New England Patriots was the second most watched show of the year with 73.9 million viewers.

19.9 million — The average audience for ABC’s reboot of the 1990s comedy series Roseanne last March, making it the most watched TV series of the year, according to Nielsen. Roseanne was eventually cancelled in May after series star Roseanne Barr posted a racially insensitive tweet. A series spinoff, The Conners, debuted this past fall.

2.4 million — The average number of primetime viewers tuning into Fox News in 2019, making it the most watched cable network in primetime among total viewers for the third consecutive year. Fox News was also the most watched cable network on a 24-hour basis for the third year in a row, according to Nielsen.

AMC's 'Better Call Saul'

AMC's 'Better Call Saul'

495 — The number of scripted series that streaming services along with broadcast and cable networks offered in 2018, according to FX. The number was up from 487 the year prior and nearly double the 266 shows that aired in 2011. Online services such as Netflix and Amazon generated the most shows with 160, while the number of broadcast and basic cable shows dropped in 2018 compared to four years prior, according to FX.

429% — The percentage increase of viewers who tuned in to watch an episode of AMC’s Better Call Saul after the episode’s premiere, which was tops among time-shifting viewer percentages for all cable and broadcast shows, according to Nielsen. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.