All 27 of Broadcast TV’s 2020 Holiday Specials Ranked by Viewers

No. 1 actually grew from last year — a true Christmas miracle!

holiday specials 2020

tony maglio ratings report banner TV specials are a little less special when no one can actually be in attendance — just ask any virtual awards show — and ratings have reflected that throughout the majority of 2020. The holidays have proven to be no exception. Looking at broadcast’s holiday-themed specials airing between Black Friday (Nov. 27, 2020) and Sunday, Dec. 13, which is the time range we currently have Nielsen numbers for, NBC’s “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” tree-lighting ceremony ranks No. 1 of 27 with 7.4 million total viewers. That was actually better than 2019’s tree-lighting total of 6.9 million total TV viewers. A Christmas miracle! A newcomer for 2020, Dolly Parton’s “A Holly Dolly Christmas,” handed CBS 6.4 million total viewers. Third was a true Christmas classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which wrapped up 5.9 million total viewers for the same network. Last year’s “Rudolph” airing glowed brighter, with 7 million viewers. ABC debuts at No. 4 on our list with the COVID-caused “Disney Holiday Singalong,” a December twist on the two “Disney Family Singalong” specials from earlier in the pandemic. This one had 5.7 million viewers. NBC’s “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” which had the benefit of immediately following “Christmas in Rockefeller Center,” rounded out the Top 5 with 5.1 million viewers. Fox aired just one holiday special this year, an encore of 2011’s “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas,” which attracted 1.2 million viewers. The CW occupied all eight of our bottom 8 slots, and not one of those specials even sniffed 1 million total viewers. Below, see how all 27 of 2020’s broadcast-TV holiday specials rank in total viewers, according to Nielsen’s Live + Same Day ratings metric. If a special aired twice in our time period, we included the better of the two.
  1. “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” (NBC): 7.4 million total viewers
  2. “A Holly Dolly Christmas” (CBS): 6.4 million
  3. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (CBS): 5.9 million
  4. “Disney Holiday Singalong” (ABC): 5.7 million
  5. “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” (NBC): 5.1 million
  6. “CMA Country Christmas” (ABC): 4.2 million
  7. “The Great Christmas Light Fight – Part 1” (ABC): 4 million
  8. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (NBC): 3.9 million
  9. “The Great Christmas Light Fight – Part 2” (ABC): 3.7 million
  10. “Minions Holiday Special” (NBC): 3.4 million
  11. “Frosty the Snowman” (CBS): 3.2 million
  12. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (ABC): 2.9 million
  13. “Disney Prep & Landing” (ABC): 2.7 million
  14. “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical” (NBC): 2.6 million
  15. “Disney Prep & Landing 2” (ABC): 2.397 million
  16. “Frosty Returns” (CBS): 2.369 million
  17. “Robbie the Reindeer” (CBS): 1.406 million
  18. “The Story of Santa Claus” (CBS): 1.389 million
  19. “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas” (Fox): 1.2 million
  20. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (The CW): 817,000
  21. “Silent Night – A Song for the World” (The CW): 629,000
  22. “The Hollywood Christmas Parade Greatest Moments” (The CW): 579,000
  23. “Greatest Holiday Commercials” (The CW): 529,000
  24. “iHeartRadio Jingle Ball” (The CW): 504,000
There was a CW tie at No. 25, with The CW’s “Christmas Caroler 1” and the “iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Greatest Moments” both drawing 496,000 viewers. That put The CW’s “Penn & Teller: Merry Fool Us” in 27th place with 421,000 viewers. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


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