TV By the Numbers: NBA Is Tops in Watch-Time, Ad Impressions

Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers reacts as he is called for an offensive foul as he drives to the basket between Dorian Finney-Smith #10 and Tim Hardaway Jr. #11 of the Dallas Mavericks during the fourth quarter in a 113-103 Mavericks win during game one of the Western Conference first round series at Staples Center on May 22, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
The Los Angeles Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks May 22, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Image credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

This is a quick snapshot of TV by the numbers for the week of May 17-23, revealing the most-watched shows and networks using glass-level data from Vizio’s Inscape, and the top shows and networks by TV ad impressions with insights via

Most-Watched Shows and Networks

Via Inscape, Vizio’s TV data product with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 17 million active and opted-in smart TVs. Data is linear, live TV only and includes all episode types (new and reruns). Rankings are by percent share duration (i.e., time spent watching).

With the playoffs officially in full swing, NBA basketball remained in first place for watch-time -- increasing its share of minutes watched to 3.04% (up from just over 1% the week before). Sports were parked atop the charts beyond the No.1 spot as well. The 2021 PGA Championship was second with 2.51% of all minutes watched, followed by NHL hockey (also in the midst of the playoffs now) with 1.08%.

Good Morning America (0.90% of watch-time) and SportsCenter (0.85%) rounded out the top five, with the latter jumping up from No. 11 the week before on the strength of playoff highlights and Phil Mickelson’s surprising win in the PGA Championship.

Also Read: NBA Launches ‘That’s Game’ Campaign During Playoffs

Most-watched shows on TV by percent share duration for May 17-23

CBS moved up to No. 1 in the network rankings this week (from second last week) with 7.69% of watch-time, powered by the exciting final round of the PGA Championship. ABC climbed to second, with 6.76% of minutes watched -- in part due to game one of two separate NBA playoff series (as well as the American Idol season finale). TNT climbed from No. 11 to No. 8 week over week due to the NBA Playoffs as well. A&E closed out the weekly rankings in 25th, with 0.91% of watch-time.

Most-watched networks on TV by percent share duration for May 17-23

Top Shows and Networks by TV Ad Impressions

Via, the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company. Rankings are by TV ad impressions, for new episodes only. 

Between late regular season games, play-in contests and the start of playoff series over the weekend, NBA basketball was far and away the top source of TV ad impressions from May 17-23, with 3.06 billion (a 266% increase week over week). Second was the PGA Championship, with 1.34 billion TV ad impressions. Good Morning America was No. 3 with 866 million impressions -- a slight increase of a little over 3% compared to the week before.

Leaping from eighth to fifth, NHL hockey started its own playoffs with a 69.1% increase in TV ad impressions week over week. In its final week of the season, American Idol went from 29th in terms of impressions to 18th with 492 million.

Top shows by TV ad impressions for May 17-23

CBS remained in first place by network rankings with 7.9 billion TV ad impressions (a very slight decline of 1.7% compared to the previous week). The American Idol finale and NBA games were a big part of ABC’s 21.7% week over week increase, and jump to second place overall. NBC saw a minor week over week decline (3.2%) while moving down from second to third in the rankings. ESPN leapt from eighth to fifth with some help from NBA play-in and playoff games, increasing TV ad impressions by nearly 72% from the previous week. Finishing 24th this week, USA Network had its own major increase in impressions (over 57%) due to WWE Monday Night Raw and the NHL Playoffs.

Top networks by TV ad impressions May 17-23

John Cassillo is an analyst and contributor with TV[R]EV.