The Top Rated Network TV Shows per Year from 2003 to 2022
Television ratings over the past two decades have been dominated by the major networks with TV shows that have resonated with viewers year after year. CBS’s crime drama NCIS has been one of the most consistent ratings winners, topping the charts many years, especially from 2009 onward.
The singing competition show American Idol was a massive hit in the 2000s, coming out on top for 8 consecutive years between 2005 and 2012. Its early dominance as the most watched show speaks to the mid-2000s enthusiasm for voting-based reality competition programs. However, interest eventually waned.
CBS further reinforced its ratings success in the late 2000s and 2010s with the rise of The Big Bang Theory. The popular sitcom about geeky scientists grew its audience each season, eventually becoming TV’s most watched comedy. It outranked even NBC’s Sunday Night Football in later seasons, very impressive for a scripted show.
Other memorable top-performing network shows over the past 20 years include early hits like CSI and Desperate Housewives, consistent ratings-grabbers like Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars, and more recent hits like This Is Us and The Voice.
While cable and streaming have fragmented audiences, the major broadcast networks can still deliver huge ratings when they have a show that connects with mass appeal. The long-running success of series like NCIS and sustained interest in contests like American Idol demonstrate the formula for network ratings success.
Below is a list of the top-rated network TV shows in the last 20 years:
2003 – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS)
2004 – American Idol (Fox), CSI (CBS)
2005 – American Idol (Fox), Desperate Housewives (ABC)
2006 – American Idol (Fox), Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
2007 – American Idol (Fox), Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
2008 – American Idol (Fox), CSI (CBS)
2009 – American Idol (Fox), NCIS (CBS)
2010 – American Idol (Fox), NCIS (CBS)
2011 – American Idol (Fox), NCIS (CBS)
2012 – NCIS (CBS), The Voice (NBC)
2013 – NCIS (CBS), The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
2014 – NCIS (CBS), The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
2015 – NCIS (CBS), The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
2016 – NCIS (CBS), The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
2017 – The Big Bang Theory (CBS), This is Us (NBC)
2018 – The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Roseanne (ABC)
2019 – NCIS (CBS), The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
2020 – NCIS (CBS), FBI (CBS)
2021 – NCIS (CBS), Young Sheldon (CBS)
2022 – NCIS (CBS), FBI (CBS)