As expected, Super Bowl LVIII (58) set a Nielsen TV viewership record.
On Monday night, CBS Sports announced that the telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs' thrilling overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers was the most-watched television event in American history, with 123.4 million viewers. This figure includes the main broadcast on CBS, the SpongeBob SquarePants-themed telecast on Nickelodeon and the Paramount+ digital broadcast.
The huge number shouldn't be a surprise, and that's before even mentioning the oft-discussed influence of “The Swifties.” Some of the most-watched title games featured a combination of dynasty teams, fan bases outside of the participating teams' markets, and at least one famous quarterback playing during his prime. Additionally, previous January playoff games set viewership records for their respective rounds, which provided even more momentum for the Super Bowl itself.
However, what has lifted the Super Bowl ratings – and the NFL ratings in general – over the past decade has been a certain skill in the television industry. The NFL's two television partners, CBS and ESPN, often aired regular-season and playoff games on their sibling channels. CBS is using Nickelodeon to court younger viewers for select games, including the last two Super Bowls it has televised. ESPN did the same with all of its ESPN channels, the Disney Channel and its over-the-air ABC station. While the ratings on the main channel are good enough on their own, adding other networks increases overall viewership.
Out-of-home viewing also provided a boost to the NFL and its partners, especially after Nielsen adjusted some of its processes after underreporting viewership during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.
There's no telling exactly how many people were drawn to the game by the appearance of music icon Taylor Swift (whose boyfriend, Chiefs player Travis Kelce, won his third championship) or the halftime performance by Usher and friends. However, there is no doubt that next year's game will be a difficult task for FOX, which is finally entering the sports streaming business on its own.