These Were the Hottest TV Shows and Networks of 2016

Life met art in the 2016 TV Hot List. Veep, a political satire about a White House run, was declared Hottest Comedy, but was trumped by the real thing, which could just have easily won Best Drama, with intrigue, betrayal and a shocking conclusion. No cliffhangers here. —Chris Ariens

1

Hottest Show

Editors' Choice
The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

No series riveted audiences and critics alike this year like FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, which took a seemingly stale topic—Simpson’s 1994 murder trial—and made it stunningly relevant and revelatory. The show averaged 12.6 million total viewers across all platforms, took home nine Emmys, and raised the bar for the limited series genre. —Jason Lynch

 

Readers' Choice
Stranger Things (Netflix) 31.1%
Game of Thrones (HBO) 17.1%
Mr. Robot (USA) 10.8%

2

Hottest Comedy

Editors' Choice
Veep (HBO)

The fifth season of Veep, led by new showrunner David Mandel, showed the too-close-to-home story of the first female (but not quite elected) POTUS. While highlighting the hilarious pitfalls of our nation’s government and winning two Emmys, the show also earned an average of 994,000 viewers per episode for HBO. Let’s hope Hillary Clinton watches mostly to laugh to keep from crying, like much of the rest of the country. —Sami Main

Readers' Choice
Transparent (Amazon) 13.5%
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) 5.4%
Jane the Virgin (The CW) 5.0%

3

Hottest Drama

Editors' Choice
Game of Thrones (HBO)

Fans by the millions—23 million multiplatform views per episode, to be exact—continue to flock to the intriguing world of Westeros where conspiracy, treachery and revenge rule the day—as well as bloody murder and unwieldy dragons. The hit HBO series wrapped Season 6 with its most-watched episode yet, drawing 8.9 million same-day TV viewers. The show is preparing for just two more seasons before the story of the Seven Kingdoms comes to an end. For now. —Chris Ariens

Readers' Choice
Stranger Things (Netflix) 13.6%
Game of Thrones (HBO) 13.6%
This Is Us (NBC) 7.8%

4

Hottest New Series

Editors' Choice
This Is US (NBC)

In a fall stuffed with new programs featuring familiar brands and returning stars, the biggest freshman hit show had neither of those. NBC’s touching family drama is not only the season’s No. 3 entertainment show in 18-49, but it’s actually been building on its Voice lead-in. This is impressive. —J.L.

Readers' Choice
Stranger Things (Netflix) 29.8%
This is Us (NBC) 11.3%
One Mississippi (Amazon) 7.3%

5

Hottest Reality or Competition Series

Editors' Choice
America's Got Talent (NBC)

Most long-running competition series have succumbed to steady ratings erosion, but America’s Got Talent actually gained viewers this summer in Season 11 with the addition of judge Simon Cowell. The NBC series’ Wednesday shows jumped 24 percent in the 18-49 demo and its season finale hit a five-year high in total viewers. —J.L. 

Readers' Choice
The Voice (NBC) 14.3%
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN) 12.5%
Lip Sync Battle (Spike) 9.3%

6

Hottest Late-Night Host

Editors' Choice
James Corden, The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS)

He’s still behind NBC’s Seth Meyers at 12:30 a.m., but in the digital world, CBS’ Late Late Show host dominates his late-night peers, thanks to his blockbuster Carpool Karaoke segments (Adele has 134 million YouTube views and counting; a spinoff series will soon air on Apple Music). But Corden is no one-hit wonder, with recurring viral bits like Drop the Mic (soon to be a TBS series), Roll Call and Take a Break. —J.L.

Readers' Choice
Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC) 22.1%
James Corden, The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS) 18.9%
John Oliver, Last Week Tonight (HBO) 18.0%

7

Hottest Broadcast Network in Prime Time

Editors' Choice
NBC

Beyond mainstays Sunday Night Football and The Voice, NBC has quietly built a thriving schedule all week long, led by fall’s breakout freshman hit, This Is Us and its Chicago drama franchise (a fourth is on the way). After several lean years, NBC finally has a comedy slate to be proud of with Superstore, The Good Place and The Carmichael Show. Further, the network is in excellent position to reclaim the 18-49 crown this season. —J.L.

Readers' Choice
NBC 35.3%
ABC 26.5%
Fox 15.7%

8

Hottest SVOD Service

Editors' Choice
Netflix

The internet is TV, the TV is internet. Welcome to the world of Netflix, which is more popular than ever. Everyone was talking about Stranger Things or Narcos or the melange of series focusing on the Marvel comic universe. With expanding content ($6 billion expected in 2017) and marketing ($1 billion in 2016) budgets, there will be no shortage of watercooler talk. Plus, Netflix is eyeing 39 percent revenue growth year over year. —S.M.

Readers' Choice
Netflix 50.7%
Amazon 33.5%
Hulu 7.1%

9

Hottest Network—Comedy

Editors' Choice
ABC

It may have plenty of drama woes, but ABC boasts a two-night lineup of hilarious family comedies that leaves its competitors in the dust: Modern Family, black-ish, The Middle, Fresh Off the Boat, The Real O’Neals, The Goldbergs and freshman hits Speechless and American Housewife. That’s a lot of laughs. —J.L.

Readers' Choice
Amazon 24.5%
Netflix 13.3%
Comedy Central 9.6%

10

Hottest Network—Drama

Editors' Choice
FX

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story was the most-honored TV show of the year, taking home nine Emmys. But the FX drama doesn’t end there. American Horror Story, The Americans, Fargo and The Strain are some of the boldest shows on TV today and the creative pipeline shows no sign of letting up. —C.A.

Readers' Choice
Amazon 23.7%
Netflix 16.1%
HBO 14.7%

11

Hottest Binge Series

Editors' Choice
Stranger Things (Netflix)

Once you’re spoofed on Saturday Night Live, you’ve made it into the cultural zeitgeist. While giving us the freaky “upside down” to worry about, Stranger Things was also part of the content slate that drove Netflix’s revenue past $2 billion in Q3. Netflix believes the show’s popularity comes from “broad appeal, cross-demographic and cross-border” interest. Everyone loves a blast from the creepy past. —S.M.

Readers' Choice
Stranger Things (Netflix) 28.5%
Man in the High Castle (Amazon) 10.7%
Transparent (Amazon) 8.2%

12

Hottest Way to Watch TV

Editors' Choice
Streaming on Connected TV Device (Roku, Apple TV, etc.)

The shift in attention is moving from linear TV to streaming those same TV shows on connected devices (think: Apple TVs/devices and Roku TVs/devices). In fact, there are currently more than 10 million active Roku accounts. Think about that the next time you log into Hulu or Netflix right from your couch. —S.M.

Readers' Choice
Streaming on Connected TV Device (Roku, Apple TV, etc.) 55.1%
DVR 17.0%
Live 12.7%

13

Hottest Sports Network

Editors' Choice
FS1

The MLB playoffs put FS1 back in the game—the Fox-owned network saw its best night ever when 6.4 million watched the Cubs clinch the NLCS. Cord cutting is hitting ESPN harder than FS1. More than 620,000 left ESPN last month, vs. 355,000 who dropped FS1, according to Nielsen. But the plucky 3-year-old network that aims to be more like big brother Fox News is also home to FIFA soccer, Pac-12 college football, U.S. Open golf and Nascar. And spring training is just three months away. —C.A.

Readers' Choice
ESPN 42.4%
Turner (TBS/TNT) 17.3%
NBC 9.2%

14

Hottest News Network

Editors' Choice
CNN

CNN’s $20 million investment in digital journalism ahead of the 2016 election paid off in ratings and revenue. For the first time in 15 years, CNN won the coveted adults 25-54 demo over rival Fox News. Under chief Jeff Zucker, CNN is poised to have its first $1 billion profit year. With the election in the rearview mirror, CNN will look to Anthony Bourdain and Lisa Ling to pick up where Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer left off. But with a Trump administration, don’t expect CNN to let up on its bread-and-butter reporting. —C.A.

Readers' Choice
CNN 36.0%
NBC 9.3%
BBC 9.2%

15

Hottest News Network Personality/Team

Editors' Choice
Megyn Kelly

The $20 million question seems to be: What will Megyn Kelly do? With a contract negotiation underway and her tell-all memoir selling briskly, the breakout media star of campaign 2016 is having a moment. Kelly’s 2015 debate question of Donald Trump led to months of acrimony. And her place in the scandal that led to the downfall of her boss, Fox News founder Roger Ailes, turned her into a champion of women wronged in the workplace. (See our accompanying interview with Kelly.) —C.A.

Readers' Choice
Anderson Cooper 42.7%
Rachel Maddow 13.6%
Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Al Roker 8.9%

16

Hottest Family Network

Editors' Choice
Hallmark Channel

While many cable networks are hemorrhaging viewers, Hallmark Channel—one of the few that makes family-friendly programming—is having a banner year. Its prime-time 18-49 ratings are up 34 percent versus a year ago, while its top-rated Countdown to Christmas (two months of holiday-themed programming) kicked off with a 25 percent increase in total viewers compared to last year. —J.L.

Readers' Choice
Freeform 22.1%
Cartoon Network 18.1%
Disney Channel 17.1%

17

Hottest Show on Social Media

Editors' Choice
Empire (Fox)

Now in its third season, Empire is still TV’s No. 1 broadcast drama in the 18-49 demo. And while its ratings might not have quite the same ferocity of Season 1, its social media game is as strong as ever. Thanks to its dedicated cast—still live-tweeting up a storm—and loyal fans, the show routinely tops Nielsen’s social content ratings each week. —J.L.

Readers' Choice
Game of Thrones (HBO) 28.4%
The Walking Dead (AMC) 10.8%
The Voice (NBC) 9.5%

18

Hottest Kids Show

Editors' Choice
Girl Meets World (Disney)

What Girl Meets World presented was an actual look at what “family” means today. The pilot aired in 2014 to over 5 million people—since then, the Disney Channel show has been nominated for multiple Creative Arts Emmys throughout the years. Final episodes of this legitimate glimpse into the world of teens, starring a gracefully progressive 14-year-old Rowan Blanchard, will air in 2017. —S.M. 

Readers' Choice
Tumble Leaf (Amazon) 40.2%
Adventure Time (Cartoon Network) 15.2%
SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon) 10.5%

19

Hottest TV Movie or Miniseries

Editors' Choice
The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

Adweek’s Show of the Year wins its second category here, as it redefined what a miniseries could be, and swept all the major miniseries categories at the Emmys. FX hopes to keep the momentum going by picking American Crime Story up for two more seasons: Season 2 will focus on Hurricane Katrina, while Season 3 will look at the murder of Gianni Versace. —J.L.

Readers' Choice
The People vs. O.J. Simpson (FX) 28.1%
Making a Murderer (Netflix) 16.6%
American Horror Story (FX) 10.7%

Check out the rest of this year's Hot List honorees:

Hottest Magazines
Media Visionary: Jeff Bezos
Magazine Executive Team: Hearst's David Carey and Michael Clinton
Magazine Editor: New York's Adam Moss
• Hottest Digital Brands and Products
TV Executive: FX's John Landgraf
TV Creator: Full Frontal's Samantha Bee
TV News Anchor: Fox News' Megyn Kelly
Digital Executive: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
Digital Creator: Casey Neistat

This story first appeared in the November 28, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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