By the Numbers: The most watched programs of 2021

most watched shows

• Only one of the top 10 programs wasn’t tied to a sporting event this year

It’s been another big year for television in Australia, both on screen and behind the scenes with the introduction of Australia’s new Total TV reporting standard. Mediaweek has been recording the top rating non-news FTA shows across the year, and has broken down the numbers for the most watched metro shows from January 17th through until December 22nd 2021.

On screen, it was a massive year for sport – both in Australia and across the globe.

Once again, the AFL Grand Final was the most watched FTA show this year with 3.006 million tuning in to see the Melbourne Demons break a 57 year long drought. This was slightly down on the 2020 Grand Final which had 3.016m metro viewers.

TV ratings

After the Opening Ceremony, the most watched day of the Tokyo Olympics coverage was the night session of Day Nine. The ninth day of the Games (August 1st) was the most successful day for Australia at an Olympic Games ever, adding four gold medals to the tally. 

On the last day in the pool, Emma McKeon took gold in the 50 metre freestyle before joining Cate Campbell, Kaylee McKeown, and Chelsea Hodges for another gold in the 4 x 100 medley relay final. At the BMX park, Logan Martin became Australia’s first ever gold medallist in BMX freestyle, and in the evening Matt Wearn won gold in the sailing Laser class.

Only one of the top 10 programs wasn’t tied to a sporting event this year – The Block’s winner announcement was watched by 1.835 million. This was very close to 2020’s Block winner announcement which pulled an audience of  1.838 million.

The Top 10 FTA Programs (Metro Overnight Ratings) Of 2021 Were:

1) AFL: Grand Final: Melbourne V Western Bulldogs Seven 3,006,000
2) AFL: Grand Final: Presentations Seven 2,667,000
3) AFL: Grand Final: On The Ground Seven 2,266,000
4) NRL Grand Final Day – Match Nine 2,202,000
5) Tokyo Games Opening Ceremony Seven 2,117,000
6) Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: Day 9 – Night Seven 2,070,000
7) State of Origin Game One Nine 1,911,000
8) State of Origin Game Two Nine 1,862,000
9) The Block – Winner Announced Nine 1,835,000
10) NRL Grand Final Day – Presentation Nine 1,794,000

From January 17th through until December 22nd 2021, there were 105 non-news, free-to-air programs that had over 1 million metro overnight viewers.

Of those:

• 62 were either sporting events or related to sporting events (such as the Olympic Opening Ceremony or Grand Final post-match coverage).
• 45 were part of the Tokyo Olympic Games coverage.

There were a significant amount of tentpole entertainment programs to crack the million viewer mark this year.

• 20 were episodes of Married At First Sight
• 14 were episodes of The Voice
• Six were episodes of The Block
• And Lego Masters made it in once, with 1,030,000 tuning in for the winner announcement

The remaining two programs that didn’t fit into either a sporting or tentpole category were specials: 10’s Oprah with Meghan and Harry with 1,366,000, and Seven’s Hey Hey We’re 50 with 1,224,000.


By Channel 

Of the 105 programs that cracked 1 million this year:

• 66 of them were from Channel Seven
• 37 were from Channel Nine
• Two were from Channel 10

The highest rating non-news program of the year from the ABC was the March 31st episode of Hard Quiz with 740,000 tuning in. With the year coming to a close though, the ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage is expected to draw a crowd. Last year, 1.614 million tuned in to see the midnight fireworks.

On SBS, the top rating program of the year was the first part of its Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras coverage, with 217,000 tuning in.

olympics Golden Rings Awards most watched shows

Total TV Ratings

In July this year, VOZ kicked off Week 29 by introducing Australia’s new Total TV reporting standard. Originally the data was available only to OzTAM subscribers, but results began to be released weekly on the VOZ website in September. 

The new VOZ data brings together broadcaster content viewed on TV sets and connected devices in a single database.

With growing BVOD audiences now being reflected in the Total TV ratings, the industry is getting a more in-depth look at who is watching what. For example, in the week of July 25-31 alone, 687,000 18–24-year-olds watched linear and 488,000 watched BVOD – 582,000 were watching both.

See More: VOZ data reveals Total TV audience of 20m weekly

The biggest winner from this new change was Channel Nine’s Love Island. Whilst the show often struggled to crack the top 20 in overnight ratings, it made leaps and bounds in Total TV – often doubling its ratings. Its biggest jump came from its November 10th episode, which rose a staggering 171% from 145,000 to 521,000.

ITV most watched shows

Love Island is one of those plays on Nine where we will get potentially as much consumption on 9Now as we’ll get on linear, it is definitely a linear and a nonlinear play,” Nine’s head of content, production, and development, Adrian Swift, told Mediaweek in October.

“Broadcast is a mass-market medium, it allows you to talk to a really engaged audience.”

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