TV By the Numbers: NBC & Olympics Atop Podium for Watch-Time, TV Ad Impressions

Caeleb Dressel of Team United States competes in the Men's 100m Butterfly Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
(Image credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Below is a snapshot of TV by the numbers for the week of July 26-Aug. 1, highlighting 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).

This year’s Summer Olympics has quickly taken over minutes watched on TV as audiences tune in to see Team USA vie for gold. During the week of July 26-Aug. 1, the Olympics races into first place with 17.13% of watch-time — more than 21 times the watch-time of the next-most-watched programming.

Good Morning America is No. 2 for the week, with 0.80% of minutes watched, followed by Today (0.77%), Major League Baseball (0.64%) and Friends (0.60%). Meanwhile, classic (1955-75) Western drama Gunsmoke has been rising rapidly through the rankings this summer, moving all the way up to No. 8 by watch-time this week.

Beyond the Olympics, sports still earns major audience attention. As mentioned above, MLB games are fourth by minutes watched. SportsCenter is No. 12 by watch-time at 0.44%, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup is No. 18 at 0.38%. The latter was assisted by some thrilling finishes by the U.S. men’s national soccer team, including an extra-time winner to clinch the title vs. Mexico on Aug. 1.

Some of the biggest week-over-week movers include Ridiculousness (up from 15th to seventh in minutes watched), NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (from 17th to ninth), Fox & Friends (24th to 14th) and SpongeBob SquarePants (22nd to 15th).

Also Read: Summer 2021 TV Premiere Dates

Most-watched shows on TV by percent duration July 26-Aug. 1

NBC high-jumps to the top of the watch-time ranking by network, with 14.54% of minutes watched from July 26-Aug. 1 (up from 10.26% the previous week). As was the case from July 19-25 as well, ABC, CBS, Fox News and Fox follow NBC in that order by watch-time this week.  

The Olympics also spur changes elsewhere in the ranking. USA Network, which has been airing events from the Games, climbs to No. 6 with 2.73% of watch-time, and NBC Sports Network moves up from No. 21 to No. 15, at 1.52% of minutes watched.

Also Read: NBCU Still Expects Olympics To Be Profitable, Says Jeff Shell

Most-watched networks on TV by percent duration July 26-Aug. 1

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. 

With so many viewers tuning into the Olympics, it’s no surprise that the Games would also serve the most TV ad impressions. From July 26 to Aug. 1, the Olympics led all programming with 14.1 billion impressions, which was more than 14 times the impressions of No. 2 Today (969 million).

Beyond the top two, news and talk programs continue to deliver higher impressions numbers as well. Good Morning America is third with 910 million TV ad impressions, followed by (soap opera) The Young and the Restless (716 million) and Today’s third hour (694 million). CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell — one of 15 news and/or talk programs populating the top 25 — is No. 25 for the week with over 279 million TV ad impressions. Major League Baseball (No. 11) and the CONCACAF Gold Cup (No. 23) are the only other live sporting events included in this week’s ranking.

Top shows by TV ad impressions July 26-Aug. 1

As the primary home of Olympics-related programming, NBC clearly tops the list for the week’s ad-impressions-by-network ranking, with nearly 13.5 billion from July 26-Aug. 1. Meanwhile, the network’s, main news shows, Today and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, are also experiencing TV ad impressions increases thanks to  more eyeballs on NBC overall.

ABC remains in second for the week, with 3.9 billion TV ad impressions, while CBS stays in third with 3.8 billion impressions. Fox News (3.6 billion impressions) and MSNBC (2.3 billion) complete the top five. USA Network impressions nearly triple, from around 660 million from July 19-25, to nearly 1.8 billion from July 26-Aug. 1.

Top networks by TV ad impressions July 26-Aug. 1

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