Super Bowl Ratings Up 1% From Last Year, With 102.1 Million Multiplatform Viewers

But linear numbers barely miss 100 million for second consecutive game

102 million people watched the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl 54.
102 million people watched the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl 54. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

The Kansas City Chiefs’ thrilling come-from-behind victory over the San Francisco 49ers helped the Super Bowl improve on last year’s numbers, but the game narrowly missed reaching 100 million linear viewers for the second consecutive year.

Super Bowl 54, in which the Chiefs beat the 49ers 31-20, was seen by 102.1 million viewers across all platforms, including Fox, Fox Deportes and Fox, NFL and Verizon digital properties. That’s a 1% increase over the 100.7 million multiplatform audience last year for Super Bowl 53 on CBS.

These numbers will climb higher in a few days when out-of-home viewers are added in. Last year, the addition of 12 million out-of-home viewers pushed that game’s total audience to 112.7 million.

Despite the ratings increase over 2019’s game, the Super Bowl once again failed to draw 100 million linear viewers, coming in just below that at 99.9 million total viewers in Nielsen’s early numbers. However, that tally could be adjusted when final numbers are available later Monday. (Update: The 99.9 million figure was unchanged after those final numbers, which only affected the multiplatform tally, increasing it from 102 million to 102.1 million.)

It’s the first year-over-year Super Bowl linear ratings increase since NBC’s telecast in 2015. That still remains the Super Bowl linear record, averaging of 114.4 million total viewers.

Last year, a linear audience of 98.2 million watched Super Bowl 53, which marked the first time that number had fallen below 100 million since 2009. That had been the lowest-rated Super Bowl on linear since 2008’s game, which was viewed by 97.5 million.

After the game ended, The Masked Singer’s Season 3 premiere averaged 23.7 million viewers and a 8.1 demo rating in adults 18-49. Fox had been looking to avoid post-Super Bowl pitfalls by scheduling a hit series after the game instead of trying to launch a new series, as it did in 2017 with 24 spinoff 24: Legacy. (CBS attempted to do last year with The World’s Best).

The move paid off: The Masked Singer was up 16% from The World’s Best’s 7.0 demo rating and 7% higher than that show’s 22.2 million total viewers. However, it did not come close to the 27.0 million—and 9.3 in the demo—who watched NBC’s post-Super Bowl episode of This Is Us in 2018.

The Super Bowl ratings uptick came after another NFL audience jump this season. Audiences had increased 5% in total viewers during the regular season, though the AFC and NFC Championship games saw viewership declines.

Given that Super Bowl ads do not have ratings guarantees, the ratings increases will have no impact on Fox’s bottom line.

Fox sold out its Super Bowl ad inventory in November, capping the fastest-moving Super Bowl market in nine years. It then worked with the NFL to add an additional “floater” ad pod to the game last month, capitalizing on massive advertiser demand with five more in-game units.

The company received as much as $5.6 million per 30-second spot, which is a new Super Bowl record. The average price for a 30-second spot was in the low-to-mid $5 million range.

According to Kantar, Fox received an estimated in $435 million in in-game revenue, the most for a Super Bowl since the 2017 game, also on Fox. That 2017 game’s $390 million in revenue had been boosted by the first overtime in Super Bowl history, which added an estimated $20 million to its tally.

Now, Fox passes the Super Bowl baton to CBS, which will air Super Bowl 55 on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. While NBC would normally be next in the Super Bowl cycle, last year CBS and NBC agreed to swap their Super Bowl telecasts in 2021 and 2022.

The switch will enable NBC to once again broadcast the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics in the same month in 2022 as it did in 2018, and gives CBS two Super Bowls in a 24-month span.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.