Best of Social TV 2021
Each year, Talkwalker Social Content Ratings (SCR) ranks the top primetime TV shows, top sports programs, top live specials, and more, according to social media engagement. Check out who made the list for 2021.
Coming off a year of unpredictability and uncertainty in 2020, we saw a year that had people become more vested in social conversation during quarantine for the majority of 2021.
With a plethora of new series premiering (Welcome Back, Elliot Stabler), old programs returning from their COVID-19 hiatus (Is it really, Always Sunny in Philadelphia?), and long-standing shows say adios (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Over and Out), there was a smorgasbord of available content for consumers. 2020 forced Networks and Programs to alter their airing schedules, but upon return, 2021 proved that social media conversations were aplenty.
Each year, Social Content Ratings releases their lists of the Top Social TV according to social conversation and engagement. The results have been calculated, tallied, and delivered! Overall, we saw billions of engagements surrounding all programming, with many new series getting just as much buzz as returning hits. From “Riverdale” to “The Voice”, the results show that television provided a welcome break from the COVID updates that ran hourly.
We decided to take a deeper look at the stats this year. Combined with social listening data, we can see how cultural moments, emotional drivers, and product tie-ins impacted conversations around top series, films, and talent in 2021.
Read on for the winners and see how your favorite shows and movies of the year fared.
Wrestling and Reality were once again the programming that led the top list for most-engaged primetime events on social media. WWE’s Monday Night Raw took over the #1 spot this year, as the program generated almost 2M interactions per episode on average in 2021.
And just as we saw last year, reality programs continue to drive strong social activity. Look no further than American Idol, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and America’s Got Talent as Top 10 programs in 2021.
The new kids on the wrestling scene, All Elite Wrestling, debuted as the top new series of 2021 with, AEW: Rampage, the brand’s second show airing weekly on TNT. AEW: Rampage saw a commanding 609k interactions, more than double the next new series.
The life story of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Young Rock) and the return of Elliot Stabler (Law & Order: Organized Crime) led the way for non-wrestling shows, ranking 2nd and 4th respectively.
New series from premium networks Telemundo, HBO, CW, Freeform, E!, and TBS also made the Top 10 list.
Grey’s Anatomy took the top spot within the scripted series category as the ABC stalworth landed over 1.5M average interactions per episode. The final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which ranked 3rd, was the top earner for NBC, which had five scripted programs fall in the Top 10.
HBO placed 5 series in the Top 10, with Insecure leading the way as the #1 Premium Cable Series. Other HBO programs that joined the list were The White Lotus, Scenes from a Marriage, Succession, and The Shop: Uninterrupted.
Starz made a fantastic showing, placing three of their series in the Top 10. Power Book III: Raising Kanan, the third program in the Power Universe placed 3rd with 88k interactions, while newcomers BMF and Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham placed 7th and 9th respectively.
The Chi, on Showtime, saw a boost from 2020, as average interactions jumped year over year.
Wrestling programming was king across Ad-Supported Cable, as four of the Top 10 programs came from WWE or AEW.
Reality programming was noteworthy by having two programs pop up in this year’s ranker, led by Keeping up with the Kardashians which leaped up to the second spot in 2021. RuPaul’s Drag Race averaged over 557k interactions per episode on VH1.
FX’s final season of Pose placed 9th out of the Top 10, with over 177K interactions.
Univision and Telemundo took this category by storm, with eight of the Top 10 Spanish-Language series airing across both networks. Reality programs were king here as well, as Nuestra Belleza Latina, Así Se Baila, and Mira Quién Baila Univision All Stars landed the top three spots.
Enamorándonos, UniMas’ sole Top 10 program, did not disappoint with nearly 40K average interactions, a 5th place finish, across 175 episodes.
New players in the streaming market made themselves known right away. Disney+ had four series land in the Top 10 while HBOMax and Apple TV had one.
WandaVision on Disney+ was the most talked-about streaming series followed up by Netflix’s Squid Game. Netflix remained a constant in original series placing four series within the Top 10.
Another new player on the streaming scene, HBOMax took the Streaming Movie category by storm in 2021. Four of the top five streamed movies came from the platform, headed up by Justice League and the sequel to Space Jam, Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring LeBron James.
The Suicide Squad and Godzilla vs. Kong complemented these two movies to fill out the top four. Within the Top 10 programs, HBOMax was responsible for nearly 20M Total Organic Interactions.
Disney+ and Netflix both placed two movies within the Top 10 with Disney+ having Black Widow and Cruella, and Netflix having El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and Army of the Dead represent each platform.
Ariana Grande claimed her throne as the top talent in a Primetime Series in 2021. Her presence on The Voice led to over 30M owned engagements across 63 pieces of content.
The majority of top series talent in 2021 came from the world of reality competitions, with Katy Perry representing American Idol, Nick Jonas representing The Voice, Sofia Vergara and Terry Crews representing America’s Got Talent, and Khloe Kardashian representing Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Cable news personalities got a lot of attention during the pandemic with FOX News’ pundits Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes seeing high social media engagement with social audiences.
Telenovela star Gala Montes of Diseñando Tu Amor took over the top spot in 2021 with over 1.4M owned engagements across social platforms.
Así Se Baila, the celebrity reality dance show on Telemundo, had two talents ranked in the Top 10. Adamari Lopez and Gregorio Pernia represented the program by landing 2nd and 3rd respectively. Another reality program, Nuestra Belleza Latina, also had two personalities enter the Top 10 with Daniela Alvarez and Alejandra Espinoza.
Award Shows are back! This year’s 2021 American Music Awards had 46.5M Total Interactions, making it not only the #1 TV Special of the year, but also the #1 most interacted with program across all of TV.
The 2021 American Music Awards is the also #1 most social awards show across TV since SCR began cross-platform measurement. (11/1/17-12/12/21)
The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards and The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, which ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively amongst all TV specials, were also the #2 and #3 programs across all of TV in 2021.
If we were to aggregate the Top three TV Specials, we would have over 100M Total Interactions!
The Super Bowl remained one of the most engaging events across all social media. Nielsen reported that this year’s game had a decrease in viewership, with nearly 92M viewers, down 8.7% from the year prior. The trend was similar across social platforms as the Super Bowl declined from last year by -26%, only accounting for 32.6M social interactions.
Talkwalker dove into the data earlier this year, discovering social trends around the teams, players, and brand tie-ins that generated viral and monumental moments during the Big Game.
The NBA was the most popular league with over 1.1B Total Interactions and over 1.9B video views across all social platforms. The NFL came second with over 833M Total Interactions, followed by the WWE (509M) and the MLB (457M).
Rounding out the Top 10 were the UFC, NHL, PGA, AEW, World Surfing League, and NASCAR.
When we look at Organic Interactions, the NFL reigns supreme, overtaking the NBA, with over 347M Organic Interactions. What was interesting to see was the comparison of the two wrestling companies, with WWE edging out AEW in both organic interactions and pieces of organic content.
The NBA provided us with the top three teams in terms of engagement with the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, and Milwaukee Bucks leading the way. The Lakers accounted for nearly 530M Total Interactions, which was more than both the Warriors and Bucks combined.
Four NFL teams made the list - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4th), Green Bay Packers (7th), Kansas City Chiefs (8th), and Dallas Cowboys (10th).
The Los Angeles Dodgers (6th), were the lone MLB team to make the Top 10.
The luck of the Irish was certainly not with Conor McGregor’s side in the Octagon, however, it was with him across social media platforms, making him the #1 social athlete in 2021.
Following McGregor are four of the top NBA players in LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Damian Lillard. LeBron’s engagement was over 248M across 756 pieces of content, an average of 328k engagements per content.
Top Social TV Reporting Methodology
Talkwalker Social Content Ratings, 1/1/21 - 12/15/21. Series lists ranked by average total interactions* per episode and include series with at least 5 live/new airings in primetime or late fringe. Scripted series exclude reality series, documentaries, talk & news programs, and game shows. New series include programs with season 1 episodes airing in 2021 as denoted by Gracenote metadata. Sports Events and Specials ranked by total interactions per episode across all dayparts. Talent lists ranked by owned engagement** exclude political programming. Original Streaming series & movies ranked by Twitter organic interactions.
This article has also been posted at Social Content Ratings.
*Total Interactions = Original social media posts across Facebook, Instagram Business/Creator Accounts, and Twitter related to a linear TV episode and the engagement with that content.
**Owned Engagements = Social media activity generated off of the original posts sent by accounts owned or affiliated with TV programming. Owned engagement for Facebook includes comments, shares, and likes. Owned engagement for Instagram includes comments and likes. Owned engagement for Twitter includes retweets, quotes, replies, and likes.