The 50 Most-Watched TV Shows of Summer 2018

A sure sign that Fall approacheth, yet an entertaining as well as educational delight in itself – Michael Schneider’s collection of this summer’s rating winners. (Wonder how it’ll rate with TVWriter™ visitors here and now…)

“Yellowstone” star Kevin Costner

by Michael Schneider

Talk about a reversal of fortunes: While the movie box office world recovered this summer after a disappointing 2017, television — at least the programming that’s measured by Nielsen ratings — took a dip. Blame some of that on the lack of “Game of Thrones,” which dominated last summer among adults 18-49.

NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” still scored plenty of eyeballs, as once again the summer’s most-watched program. But Simon Cowell and company were still down to 14.56 million viewers, vs. 15.28 million last year.

IndieWire has compiled the summer 2018 rankings for broadcast and cable, using the most recent Live+7 ratings (which include seven days’ worth of DVR and video on-demand usage). Here’s a final look at some of the hits and misses of the summer, followed by our complete list of the most-watched shows of June/July/August, according to both adults 18-49 and total viewers.


“Yellowstone”: The new Paramount Network is off to a strong start, thanks to “Yellowstone,” the most-watched cable series of the summer. The drama, starring Kevin Costner as the owner of America’s largest contiguous cattle ranch, was the most-watched new scripted drama on ad-supported cable since 2016, according to the channel. The show averaged 5 million viewers this summer and has been renewed for a second season. Paramount relaunched in January, from its previous identity as Spike, with the limited-run series “Waco,” followed by the launch of comedy “American Woman” in June.

“Making It” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back”: Established TV stars trying out new reality formats were a win for the networks this summer. The shows tied as the summer’s No. 1 new series among adults 18-49 (1.4 rating), while “Making It” was the most-watched new series of the summer (5.36 million viewers). Both shows have been renewed for second seasons.

“Making It” reunites “Parks and Recreation” stars Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman as they host a crafts competition series. “Seeing firsthand the imagination of a true craftsman and, literally, watching them create something out of nothing is pure gold,” said Paul Telegdy, NBC’s president, alternative and reality group.

In “24 Hours to Hell and Back,” Ramsay finds failing restaurants and works with them to turn things around in 24 hours — re-interviewing staff, creating a new menu and renovating the space. “Gordon gives 100 percent in everything he does, and he took on the task of turning these restaurants around wholeheartedly,” said Rob Wade, Fox’s president of alternative entertainment and specials.

Code Black”: CBS didn’t renew the medical drama for a third season, but the show has performed well for the network this summer — it’s the most-watched scripted original of the off-season, averaging 8.79 million viewers. Earlier this month, CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl hinted that the network might try and find a way to bring it back after all: “It’s doing incredibly well. It’s a well-done show, and we would like to figure out a way to maybe make it work. Economics were a little challenged on it, but it’s certainty performing well, and we are going to take a look….”

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