Super Bowl draws record 123.4 million viewers, helped by Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce

If you bet on Super Bowl LVIII being the most watched TV event of all time, it’s time to collect.

The telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs’ stunning 25-22 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers had an average audience of 123.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.

The game from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, which aired across CBS, Nickelodeon and Univision and streamed over Paramount+ and NFL+, topped the previous record set by last year’s game, when the Chiefs topped the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-31. That game was watched by 115.1 million viewers on Fox and other platforms.

Most of the viewing was on CBS, which averaged 120 million viewers — the largest audience ever for a single network. Detailed numbers for viewing on other platforms will be released later, but CBS said the game was the most streamed event ever on Paramount+.

Expectations for this year’s ratings were high. The presence of Taylor Swift, on hand to cheer on her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, elevated the game’s stature as the center of the pop culture universe.

The celebrity romance story line even entered the political realm as right-wing zealots spread lies about the game being rigged to boost the vaccine-promoting Kelce and Swift, who has expressed support for President Biden in the past. The 49ers — based in the liberal bastion of San Francisco — strangely gained a following among the MAGA crowd as a result.

The record-setting number was in line with the overall dominance of the NFL in the current media landscape, where audience levels for all other programming genres on traditional TV have diminished dramatically due to viewer migration to video streaming platforms.

Ratings were up during the 2023-24 regular season and set records in the playoffs. The AFC Championship game, where the Chiefs topped the Baltimore Ravens to claim their Super Bowl berth, was watched by an all-time high of 55.5 million viewers on CBS. The NFC Championship on Fox, where the 49ers topped the Detroit Lions, drew 56.6 million viewers, the largest audience for the game since 2012.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa chases Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during Super Bowl LVIII.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa chases Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during Super Bowl LVIII.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The outcome of Super Bowl LVIII, determined by a touchdown pass from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr. in overtime, provided a perfect ending, as close competitive contests keep viewers tuned in longer.

The game was only the second Super Bowl in history to go into overtime. The New England Patriots’ win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Fox in 2017 was the first.

Underscoring the enduring value of America’s biggest sporting event, advertisers paid CBS an average of $7 million for a 30-second spot on the telecast, on par with last year’s price.

Most of the commercials were laden with big-name celebrities, such as the State Farm Insurance spot with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. The ad ranked first in the annual Ad Meter panel of viewers assembled by USA Today, followed by the Dunkin’ Donuts spot with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jennifer Lopez and Tom Brady.

While none of the spots were the kind of creative boundary pushing productions seen on past games — think Apple’s revolutionary 1984 spot introducing the Macintosh computer — brands clearly experience a halo effect from including big show-business names.

After Beyonce appeared in a spot for Verizon internet service, she announced on her website that her next album, “Act II,” will drop on March 29, associating the company with the major music news.

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