The Super Bowl on Sunday drew a staggering 123.4 million viewers who watched the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in a nail-biting overtime triumph, CBS Sports said in a statement.
The game was shown on CBS, the NFL Network, Univision, Paramount+, NFL+ and ViX, a Spanish-language streaming service. Kids could also watch an alternative broadcast on Nickelodeon featuring characters from “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
The Super Bowl in 2023, in which the Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35, held the previous record, with more than a 115 million total viewers on Fox television networks and digital platforms alongside the league’s own platforms.
The massive ratings for Sunday’s game were not exactly a surprise. Television industry analysts expected that the game would be a cultural juggernaut, boosted in part by a first-time setting — Las Vegas — and celebrity suite appearances from pop superstar Taylor Swift, who is dating Chief tight end Travis Kelce.
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The halftime concert helped drive interest, too. Usher headlined the show at Allegiant Stadium, where he was joined by special guests: Alicia Keys, Jermaine Dupri, H.E.R., will.i.a.m, Lil John, Ludacris and the Jackson State University marching band, Sonic Boom of the South.
Ahead of the Super Bowl, the NFL playoffs also earned record-breaking ratings. The first three weekends of the NFL postseason averaged 38.5 million viewers, the viewership measurement firm Nielsen and the NFL said, according to The Associated Press.
An average of 55.47 million viewers tuned in on Jan. 28 to watch the Chiefs best the Baltimore Ravens — a playoff viewership record for the AFC, the AP reported. The same day, an average of 56.69 million people tuned in to watch the 49ers beat the Detroit Lions, which became the most-watched NFC game since 2012, according to the AP.
In an era of fractured media consumption and streaming-first viewing habits, the NFL is one of the few entertainment enterprises that still has the power to attract huge numbers to traditional broadcast television. NFL games made up a staggering 93 of the top 100 broadcast programs last year, according to data from Nielsen.
“The Super Bowl is really the last of the truly communal TV experiences, making it not only immune to the audience decline that all other programming types are experiencing, but in fact positioned for growth,” Syracuse University television history Robert Thompson said before Sunday’s big game.
CBS Sports said in its statement on viewership that digital streaming on Paramount+ helped it achieve a historic audience for the event. TV viewers alone amounted to 120 million, it said.
“More than 200 million viewers (202.4) watched all or part of Super Bowl LVIII across networks, the highest unduplicated total audience in history and up +10% vs. last year’s Super Bowl,” the network said.
Its numbers had not yet been echoed by Nielsen, but CBS said they would be Tuesday.