As of Dec. 7, 2015, the shows with the highest Nielsen ratings currently airing include "The Big Bang Theory," "Sunday Night Football," "NCIS" and "The Walking Dead." Some of the highest rated shows of all time include "I Love Lucy," "Seinfeld" and "American Idol."
"The Big Bang Theory," a sitcom on CBS, is currently the highest-rated show on television, averaging 21.3 million viewers per week. "Sunday Night Football" and "NCIS" are tied for second place, both averaging 21 million views per week. In third place is AMC's "The Walking Dead," which averages 19 million viewers per week, making it the highest-rated cable show of all time. Other currently airing shows with high Nielsen ratings include "Empire," "Scorpion" and "Dancing with the Stars."
Historically, older shows had higher Nielsen ratings, largely due to the lack of available programming compared to the modern era. The 1952 season of "I Love Lucy" is the highest Nielsen rated show of all time, as two-thirds of all American households watched every episode. Other shows among the most highly rated off all time include "All in the Family," "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "The Cosby Show." Some shows, such as "Cheers," "M*A*S*H" and "Seinfeld," had very highly rated finales, despite lower ratings for normal broadcasts.