Nielsen Overturns Earlier Call: Super Bowl XLVIII Is Most-Watched, Ever

Blowout scares up a record 112.2 million viewers

In retrospect, it was over before it started, but Super Bowl XLVIII still managed to draw more viewers than any other broadcast in U.S. television history.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Fox’s Super Bowl broadcast delivered an average 112.2 million viewers, besting the previous record holder set by NBC in 2012 by a margin of some 900,000 fans. (The Peacock’s coverage of the Patriots-Giants rematch delivered 111.3 million viewers.)

With the final numbers in place, the record for Super Bowl deliveries now has been broken in four of the past five seasons running. CBS in 2010 first broke the 100 million mark, as Super Bowl XLIV delivered 106.5 million viewers. The following year, Pittsburgh and Green Bay threw down in front of 111 million Fox viewers; that number stood for just 364 days thanks to the aforementioned New York-New England tilt. 

Household ratings improved slightly versus last year’s game, as Fox averaged a 46.7 rating/69 share, up three-tenths of a ratings point compared to the 46.4/69 CBS notched with the Baltimore-San Francisco battle. This year’s game now stands as the seventh highest-rated in the Super Bowl’s 48-year history. 

The all-time highest-rated Super Bowl was the 16th edition, which notched a 49.1 rating/73 share on CBS back in January 1982.

The final deliveries underscore the fact that fast national ratings are effectively meaningless when it comes to assessing the performance of a live, nationwide sports broadcast. Per Nielsen’s preliminary data, the Seahawks-Denver debacle drew just 96.9 million viewers—a variance of 14.6 million viewers, or 15 percent. 

After the game, a special Prince-enhanced episode of New Girl served up 26.3 million viewers and an 11.4 in the dollar demo. While Brooklyn Nine-Nine largely aired outside of prime time (between 10:54 p.m. and 11:25 p.m. EST), the show still managed to draw 15.1 million viewers and a 6.9 rating—or more than four times what it usually manages in its Tuesday night time slot.