The 25 Broadcast TV Shows With Biggest Audience Boosts Since the Coronavirus Lockdown

Top 11 are all on either NBC or ABC

With nowhere to go and no one to see (inside a six-foot perimeter, at least), Americans have turned to the one friend that is always there for us in good times and in bad: TV.

As self-isolating and sheltering in place due to the coronavirus has gone from a good idea to the law, television usage has shot up. But which series have been the biggest individual gainers?

The three TV shows with the largest audience growth from since our shared COVID-19 isolation began on (roughly) March 9 are NBC’s “Superstore” (+43%), ABC’s “20/20” (+35%) and ABC’s “Shark Tank” (+26%), according to our study of Nielsen numbers.

“Superstore” is a Thursday show, “20/20” and “Shark Tank” both air on Fridays. Why is that particularly relevant here? With the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament scuttled, key competition CBS has been forced to air all reruns on those evenings, which makes the other networks even more attractive.

Here are the 25 broadcast TV shows with the largest lockdown growth:

As readers can see in our chart, below those Top 3 shows, three other series tie for fourth place, each with a +23% viewership boost. “The Goldbergs” is one percentage point away from making it a four-way tie.

Two of the tied series, “Will & Grace” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” are also from NBC’s Thursday lineup. The other, “Modern Family” airs Wednesdays on ABC an hour after “The Goldbergs.”

“Will & Grace” and “Modern Family” are coming to an end this season, which is another likely reason why viewership has gotten a boost.

Three of the top seven shows — “The Goldbergs,” “Superstore” and “Shark Tank” — also air at 8 p.m. With more eyeballs on the local news that often wraps up just before primetime’s 8 o’clock start, the 8 p.m. shows are inheriting extra eyeballs.

“Shark Tank” also serves as the lead-in for ABC News’ show “20/20” on Fridays. (On Wednesdays, “The Goldbergs” and “Modern Family” are only separated by “Goldbergs” spinoff “Schooled.”) “Shark Tank” and “20/20” are the only series longer than a half-hour (“20/20” is a two-hour show) on this Top 7 list. And neither one is a scripted drama.

As a matter of fact, you’d have to go down to No. 12 in our rankings from before isolation to after in order to locate the first drama, CBS’ “FBI: Most Wanted” (+18%). To find the first Fox show on the list, one has to scroll to No. 22, where “The Masked Singer” and “Lego Masters” tie with a crop of shows that are averaging audiences 13% higher than the days we were allowed to congregate in groups larger than 10.

More specifically, for this story, we compared March 9 through March 25 with the prior four-week averages. That means the “before” timeframe is about a week and a half longer than the “after,” but it sounds like our real after is gonna last a long, long time.

Tony Maglio

Tony Maglio

TV Editor • [email protected] • Twitter: @tonymaglio


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