Super Bowl Viewership Rose to 123.4 Million, a Record High

Sunday night’s overtime Super Bowl shattered ratings records.

An audience of 123.4 million watched the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen and CBS, which broadcast the game. That figure easily eclipsed last year’s record high of 115.1 million, when Kansas City defeated the Philadelphia Eagles. Final Nielsen ratings for the Super Bowl will be issued on Tuesday.

The figure is the total who watched on CBS, the Paramount+ streaming app, the Spanish-language channel Univision, N.F.L. digital channels or Nickelodeon, which aired a child-friendly telecast. The vast majority watched the game on CBS, which recorded 120 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The game had a lot going for it. It went into overtime, concluded with a game-winning touchdown pass (for a 25-22 final score) and featured an elite Kansas City team with a superstar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. Travis Kelce, Kansas City’s starting tight end, also happens to be dating a megastar in Taylor Swift, who attended the game in Las Vegas.

At a moment when traditional television ratings have been in free fall, the N.F.L., particularly the Super Bowl, has stood immune to massive viewership changes affecting the rest of the media world. Thirteen of the last 15 Super Bowls have drawn more than 100 million viewers, according to Nielsen, a bigger audience than in earlier decades.

Sunday’s performance also capped off a big year for N.F.L. ratings.

Viewership was up 7 percent, according to Nielsen, falling just shy of the record set in 2015. Several playoff games set ratings records, including the A.F.C. championship game on CBS, which scored more than 55 million viewers, and an A.F.C. divisional playoff game that drew more than 50 million. The N.F.C. championship game was a little short of a record.

League officials have pointed to numerous close games this season — along with a playoff hunt that still included several teams toward the end — as big reasons that ratings jumped. (It’s less clear how much Ms. Swift helped boost viewership.)

Other live events, like some award shows, have also had good returns recently. Last week, the Grammy Awards, also on CBS, drew roughly 17 million viewers, a 34 percent jump from last year’s ceremony. Ratings for the Oscars have increased in back-to-back years.

The success of N.F.L. telecasts stands in sharp contrast to the rest of traditional television, which has had nose-diving viewership for several years as more and more viewers migrate to on-demand streaming entertainment. Viewership among the major broadcast networks has declined 12 percent since the current television season began in September.

Last year’s Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes mostly starved the broadcast networks of new episodes of scripted television series for the last five months, and CBS has been particularly hurt. The network’s prime-time audience has declined 30 percent since the television season began, according to Nielsen.

Help may be on the way, though. CBS is rolling out new episodes of scripted shows this week, and promotional videos for the coming lineup circulated throughout the Super Bowl telecast. The overtime game also meant additional commercial breaks, which netted CBS roughly an extra $35 million, Adweek reported. CBS had sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of commercial time for the game.

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