TV By the Numbers: Olympics Win Gold for Watch-Time, TV Ad Impressions

Swimmers compete in the Women's 100m Individual butterfly semfinal on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
(Image credit: Berengui/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

The below snapshot of TV by the numbers for the week of July 19-25 highlights 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).

After a thrilling NBA Finals, the Summer Olympics quickly hurdled into the lead for minutes watched on TV. During the week of July 19-25, the Olympics takes first place with 8.39% of watch-time. 

Good Morning America is No. 2 for the week, at 0.86% of watch-time, followed by the NBA Finals, despite just one game throughout the week (0.82%), MLB baseball (0.72%) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (0.70%). At No. 7, Friends is one of a handful of comedies sprinkled throughout this week’s rankings, including The Golden Girls (No. 12) and Two and a Half Men (No. 18). 

Despite the Olympics owning a lot of attention, it’s not the lone sports draw in this week’s rankings. As previously noted, both the NBA Finals and MLB are in the top five for minutes watched. PGA Tour golf is No. 11 (with 0.49% of watch-time), while SportsCenter is No. 14, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup is No. 21. 

Benefiting from the bump provided by the Olympics, NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt rises from 30th to 17th by minutes watched for the week. Additionally, SpongeBob SquarePants bubbles up from outside the top 50 to No. 22. The Olympics is, of course, the biggest mover on the week, after not airing at all from July 12-18.

Also Read: Summer 2021 TV Premiere Dates

Most-watched shows on TV by percent duration July 19-25

With an obvious push from the Olympics, NBC soars to the top of the watch-time ranking, with 10.3% of minutes watched from July 19-25. ABC drops one spot to second place at 6.48% of watch-time. CBS is No. 3 with 5.33%, followed by Fox News (3.76%) and Fox (3.36%) to round out the top five. Fox News and Fox flip-flop from the previous week, when Fox was No. 4.

USA Network benefits from the Olympics as well, swimming from No. 14 to No. 9, while NBC Sports Network makes its own leap from No. 40 to No. 21. Bravo sits at No. 25 on the week, with 1.06% of minutes watched.

Most-watched networks on TV by percent duration July 19-25

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. 

It shouldn’t surprise that the Olympics deliver the most TV ad impressions on the week, with 4.8 billion — all coming between Friday, July 23 and Sunday, July 25. The NBA Finals is second with 1.18 billion TV ad impressions, followed by Good Morning America (902 million), The Young and the Restless (697 million) and MLB baseball (604 million).

News and talk programming continues to be a large portion of the top 25 shows by TV ad impressions. From July 19-25, six of the top 10 were either news or talk-related, as were 10 of the top 25 overall. The Olympics boost NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt impressions as well, as the show surges from No. 20 the previous week all the way to No. 7.

Top shows by TV ad impressions July 19-25

NBC is at the top of the podium for the week's ad-impressions-by-network ranking, with over 7.1 billion from July 19-25. The Summer Olympics are clearly the biggest part of that leap (from 4.6 billion the previous week), though, as we’ve already noted, some of the network’s other shows also benefited from the increased eyeballs on the Games.

ABC takes silver for the week, with 5.8 billion TV ad impressions, while CBS gets the bronze with 4.2 billion. Fox News (3.8 billion) and MSNBC (2.4 billion) round out the top five. USA Network has nearly five times more impressions week-over-week as a result of airing Olympic events.

Top networks by TV ad impressions July 19-25

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