‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Better Call Saul’ Biggest On-Demand and DVR Shows of 2016

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YearInReview2016

You’ve heard of “binge viewing.” But video on-demand services are also popularizing another kind of TV experience: “snack viewing.”

According to Comcast Xfinity’s list of its subscribers’ most-viewed on-demand series in 2016, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” was easily No. 1. Not only are viewers catching up with recent episodes, but the very first episode of the first season of “Game of Thrones” remains extremely popular on the service, per Steve Meyer, Comcast’s vice president for data strategy and analytics. That means new viewers are beginning their “Game of Thrones” journey all the time.

“It’s No. 1 even though not all of our subscribers have access to HBO,” Meyer said. “All of our subscribers have access to broadcast and cable VOD. So not only is ‘Game of Thrones’ No. 1 but it’s boxing above its weight class.”

READ MORE: ‘The Walking Dead,’ Super Bowl, Oscars, Olympics Lead the Top-Rated Telecasts of 2016

But the show at No. 2 might come as a bit of a surprise: “The Simpsons,” now in its 28th season, is the second most-viewed program on the Xfinity service. But as Meyer notes, many viewers turn to on-demand to “snack” on individual episodes of shows, rather than binge. And FXX’s 600-episode “Simpsons” library is there for the picking.

That “snack viewing” model also explains why reality shows like “Chrisley Knows Best” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” remain hugely popular on demand. And while “The Big Bang Theory” can easily be found on linear TV in syndication, it’s also hugely popular on demand. “It’s always available and more convenient than finding the repeat,” Meyer said.

Meanwhile, Meyer noted that on-demand users have embraced “premium” content from networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz, all of which are well-represented on the list. Audiences, perhaps trained by the Netflix “binge” model, are now looking for complete viewing experiences, and shows gaining in popularity like Starz’s “Power” are benefiting from every episode being available immediately.

“This is the model that HBO pioneered,” Meyer said. “Netflix has the same model. Look at a show like ‘Power.’ It’s possible to get into ‘Power’ now even though the show launched three years ago.”

The show that truly kicked off the premium TV trend, “The Sopranos,” continues to reside in the top 20 as viewers revisit that show and new audiences sample it.

READ MORE: Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2016’s Winners and Losers

“People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and “This Is Us” lead among new series; more freshman shows appear now that the networks continue to move toward “full stacking rights” — which means an entire season’s worth of episodes are available, allowing for late viewers to still jump in and catch up. According to Meyer, 58% of broadcast series are now “stacked,” up from 23% in 2014. And 78% of cable programs are stacked, up from 53% two years ago.

“We think it’s particularly important for new series,” he said. “‘This is Us’ has been a ratings surprise on NBC, and we’re seeing that reflected as well on VOD.”

Top 20 On-Demand Series of 2016 (Overall)

1. “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
2. “The Simpsons” (FXX, Fox)
3. “Shameless” (Showtime)
4. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
5. “Power” (Starz)
6. “Chrisley Knows Best” (USA)
7. “Empire” (Fox)
8. “Outlander” (Starz)
9. “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” (E!)
10. “The Walking Dead” (AMC)
11. “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX)
12. “60 Days In” (A&E)
13. “Family Guy” (Fox)
14. “Ray Donovan” (Showtime)
15. “Ballers” (HBO)
16. “The Sopranos” (HBO)
17. “Modern Family” (ABC)
18. “Lucifer” (Fox)
19. “This Is Us” (NBC)
20. “The Voice” (NBC)
Source: Comcast Xfinity; includes all current and past seasons, excludes kids programming. January 1, 2016 – November 30, 2016.

Top 20 On-Demand Series of 2016 (Current Season Only)

1. “Game of Thrones” Season 6 (HBO)
2. “The Big Bang Theory” Season 9 (CBS)
3. “People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” Season 1 (FX)
4. “Power” Season 3 (Starz)
5. “Empire” Season 2 (Fox)
6. “Chrisley Knows Best” Season 4 (USA)
7. “This Is Us” Season 1 (NBC)
8. “Family Guy” Season 14 (Fox)
9. “Shades of Blue” Season 1 (NBC)
10. “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” Season 12 (E!)
11. “60 Days In” Season 1 (A&E)
12. “Greenleaf” Season 1 (OWN)
13. “Dance Moms” Season 6 (Lifetime)
14. “America’s Got Talent” Season 11 (NBC)
15. “Modern Family” Season 7 (ABC)
16. “Lucifer” Season 1 (Fox)
17. “The Night Of” Season 1 (HBO)
18. “The Walking Dead” Season 6 (AMC)
19. “The Bachelorette” Season 12 (ABC)
20. “The Girlfriend Experience” Season 1 (Starz)
Source: Comcast Xfinity; episodes must have aired in 2016, excludes kids programming. January 1, 2016 – December 6, 2016.

Meanwhile, here’s some data from Nielsen on the most overall time shifted television fare, including both DVR and VOD usage:

Top 10 Time Shifted TV Programs Of 2016 (Ranked By % Change)

1. “Better Call Saul” (AMC) +278.7% viewership jump
2. “American Horror Story” (FX) +245.5%
3. “People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX) +238.6%
4. “Suits” (USA) +233.4%
5. “Real Housewives of Orange County” (Bravo) +217.0%
6. “Preacher” (AMC) +206.5%
7. “Game of Thrones” (HBO) +192.6%
8. “The Last Ship” (TNT) +188.1%
9. “Teen Mom II” (MTV) +186.3%
10. “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (Bravo) +184.5%

Source: Nielsen NNTV Program Report. All Broadcast and Cable. 1/01/2016 – 11/06/2016. Live & Live+7. Broadcast Prime; Primetime TSV%: Percent increase is based on absolute difference between Live & Live+7 Proj(000). P2+. A program must reach at least a 1.0 Live+7 P2+ rating. Excludes Breakouts, Specials, Repeats, Duration < 5 min, Sustainers, & programs with less than four telecasts.

Top 10 Time-Shifted TV Programs of 2016 (Ranked By Absolute Difference)

1. “The Walking Dead” (AMC) +10,435,000 viewers
2. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) +9,160,000
3. “Designated Survivor” (ABC) +8,980,000
4. “Game of Thrones” (HBO) +6,986,000
5. “This Is Us” (NBC) +6,886,000
6. “NCIS” (CBS) +6,817,000
7. “Empire” (Fox) +6,511,000
8. “Bull” (CBS) +6,454,000
9. “The Blacklist” (NBC) +6,396,000
10. “The X-Files” (Fox) +6,226,000

Source: Nielsen NNTV Program Report. All Broadcast and Cable. 1/01/2016 – 11/06/2016. Live & Live+7. Broadcast Prime. Rank based on absolute difference beween Live & Live+7 Proj(000). P2+. A program must reach at least a 1.0 Live+7 P2+ rating. Excludes Breakouts, Specials, Repeats, Duration < 5 min, Sustainers, & programs with less than four telecasts.

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