Super Bowl LVIII was the most-watched television broadcast in a generation.
Sunday’s overtime thriller, which featured the Kansas City Chiefs facing off against the San Francisco 49ers, averaged 123.4 million viewers, CBS said Monday, breaking Super Bowl viewership records.
The highly anticipated showdown in Las Vegas surpassed the previous most-watched Super Bowl in history, a record set just last year when the Chiefs mounted a second half comeback to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in front of 115 million viewers. The audience for Super Bowl LVIII was so large that it approached the all-time most watched television broadcast set in 1969, when an estimated 125 to 150 million viewers watched the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The game, which aired on CBS and the Paramount+ streaming platform, was also simulcast in Spanish on Univision, as well as a kids-centric telecast on Nickelodeon.
The record-breaking Super Bowl capped a strong season for the NFL, which had already blown past viewership records in the weeks leading up to its epic conclusion at Allegiant Stadium, with the NFC championship game on Fox averaging 56 million viewers and the AFC championship game averaging 55 million on CBS.
The massive Super Bowl audience was likely the confluence of several factors, including that the showdown went into a thrilling overtime quarter in which the Chiefs scored the game-winning touchdown with just seconds left on the clock. In the crowd was also pop superstar Taylor Swift, who has generated heightened interest around the Chiefs due to her ongoing romance with tight end Travis Kelce. Swift’s attendance at games has lured in legions of her young and often female fans, helping the NFL tap into an additional viewership market.
“She is without a doubt incremental to audience on the NFL,” Bob Bakish, the chief executive of CBS parent company Paramount Global said last week in a Bloomberg interview. “She’s a great addition, widening the net of the NFL viewer even further.”
The league has leaned heavily into Swift’s presence at games, with broadcasters often panning television cameras to catch her reactions to the event. The Super Bowl was no different. Throughout the broadcast, CBS’ cameras cut away to Swift, showing her cheering on Kelce while donning Chiefs paraphernalia. After the Chiefs clinched the championship, Swift and Kelce embraced on the field, kissing before the cameras.
Outside the Swift factor, the NFL continues to be one of the only communal viewership experiences remaining in the media landscape as programming becomes more fragmented across streaming services. The league has proven that it is one of the only remaining entities that can draw large live audiences.
In fact, each year NFL games make up the vast majority of the most-watched television programs. In 2023, 93 of the 100 most-watched programs on television belonged to the NFL.
That makes the NFL and the Super Bowl all the more valuable to advertisers trying to reach a mass market. Companies dished out about $7 million to secure a 30-second spot during the big game.