Feb 12, 2024 - Business

Super Bowl LVIII makes history as most-watched American telecast ever

Pat mahomes

Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahome celebrating Sunday's Super Bowl win at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Photo: Michael Owens/Getty Images

CBS' broadcast of Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday was the most-watched television event in U.S. history, according to preliminary Nielsen figures — with 123.4 million viewers across CBS, Univision and streaming platforms.

Why it matters: A nail-biter ending in overtime, combined with celebrity sightings and a history-making consecutive win by the Kansas City Chiefs, drove the NFL to make television history at a time when few events are still able to pull large swaths of Americans together.

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals (Editor's note: This chart has been corrected to say the Super Bowl was played between the Chiefs and 49ers in 2020, not the Chiefs and Buccaneers.)
Data: Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals (Editor's note: This chart has been corrected to say the Super Bowl was played between the Chiefs and 49ers in 2020, not the Chiefs and Buccaneers.)

Details: Overall, the matchup between the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers averaged 123.4 million viewers across all platforms — up more than 7% compared to last year's game, which held the previous record at 115.1 million viewers, CBS Sports said.

  • Of that total number, 120 million watched the game live on CBS, marking the largest audience ever for an event on a single TV network.
  • The Super Bowl was also broadcast on Univision, which averaged 2.2 million viewers — the highest Super Bowl viewership on record for a Spanish-language network. A kid-friendly version appeared on CBS' sister network Nickelodeon.
  • The game marks the most-streamed Super Bowl in history, CBS said, although the network did not provide further viewership data. (For context, Fox said its broadcast of last year's game saw an average of 7 million streams.)

Between the lines: The game caps off a record season for NFL viewership driven by a slew of competitive games and popular off-the-field storylines, like Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce's relationship with Taylor Swift.

  • The NFL made up 93 of the top 100 broadcast programs last year, up from 82 in 2022 and 72 in 2020.

The big picture: The Super Bowl is one of the few remaining events that can bring millions of people together at the same time.

  • As a result, CBS was able to command a whopping $7 million per 30-second spot during this year's game, up from roughly $4.4 million in 2016.

Be smart: The game is not only one of the most culturally relevant moments of each year, but it's also one of the most lucrative opportunities for advertisers, celebrities and politicians to market themselves.

What to watch: Final Nielsen figures are expected to be released Tuesday. They should show a slight uptick in viewership compared to the preliminary numbers.

  • iSpot.tv, a newer media measurement firm that rivals Nielsen, said earlier Monday that according to its data, 126.6 million people watched the game across TV and streaming.<br/>
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