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Super Bowl XLVIII Most Watched U.S. Television Broadcast Ever

Super Bowl XLVIII

Continuing a streak that began with Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, Sunday night’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII set another viewership record despite the lopsided result:

Final ratings are in for the 2014 Super Bowl — and, contrary to early returns, which saw the game ranking fifth all-time, the NFL season finale ended up being the biggest to date. An average 112.2 million viewers tuned in to see the Seattle Seahawks blow the Denver Broncos out of the water, making it the most watched Super Bowl and the most watched program in U.S. television history.

That’s up nearly 4 million from last year’s Super Bowl, which averaged 108.4 million viewers. That game, between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, though close, suffered an audience drop when a power outage halted the game for 30 minutes.

Super Bowl XLVIII breaks the record set by the 2012 Super Bowl. That game averaged 111.3 million viewers, narrowly topping 2010’s 111 million.

This year’s matchup, which measured up to last year’s game with a 46.7 rating among households and a 69 share, saw its best ratings toward the end of the first half. Between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., the Super Bowl averaged a 46.9 rating and a 71 share among households.

Slowly but surely, the list of most-watched television broadcasts in U.S. history is being taken over by sporting events, specifically the Super Bowl. The last non-sports broadcast that broke the 100,000,000 viewer mark was the M*A*S*H finale, and that was broadcast way back in 1982. More recently, the most hyped non-sports broadcasts, typically finales of much-hyped shows. The Breaking Bad finale, for example drew an estimated 10,000,000 viewers, while the finale for The Office drew just 5,000,000 viewers, and it was considered a hit show during its time on the air. Even a show like Lost saw it’s finale draw just about 10,000,000 viewers. Indeed, the last broadcast of a series finale that drew 20,000,000 viewers or more was the finale of Everybody Loves Raymond in 2005.

Clearly, the Super Bowl remains the last non-breaking news event that draws large numbers Americans together to watch something at the same time.

(Source for ratings figures here)

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    We adjust box office dollars for inflation. Should we adjust audience by population? We have about 317 million people now compared to 232 million in 1982, so adjusted for population 100 million viewers for MASH in 1982 would be proportional to 137 million 2014 viewers, outstripping the Super Bowl.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  2. C. Clavin says:

    And O’Reilly is getting absolutely hammered for his conspiracy theory based interview of Obama that aired just before the most watched TV event in history.
    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  3. PJ says:

    Super Bowl XLVIII Most Watched U.S. Television Broadcast Ever

    Only in total number of viewers, and that’s expected considering population growth.

    60.2% of US households watched the M*A*S*H finale, only 47.6% of US households watched Super Bowl XLVIII.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. PJ says:

    @gVOR08:

    We adjust box office dollars for inflation. Should we adjust audience by population? We have about 317 million people now compared to 232 million in 1982, so adjusted for population 100 million viewers for MASH in 1982 would be proportional to 137 million 2014 viewers, outstripping the Super Bowl.

    Exactly.
    In unadjusted dollars, Avatar is the box office king and Gone with the Wind is 142nd. Adjust it and Gone with the Wind is 1st and Avatar is only 14th.

    Avatar:
    $812,081,500 (adjusted)
    $760,507,625 (unadjusted)

    Gone with the Wind:
    $1,687,072,600 (adjusted)
    $198,676,459 (unadjusted)

    But than that’s not really done for box office dollars either. It wasn’t long ago that Frozen was said to have surpassed The Lion King. In unadjusted dollars…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Gee, I missed the event of the (14 year old) century.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  6. john personna says:

    As you may have heard, TimeWarner cable in Los Angeles had a 20 minute Fox outage in the middle of the game. Twitter lit up, and we all switched to Spanish Fox, giving them I’m sure record local ratings.

    It was pretty crazy that they were down for a solid 20 minute, during Super Bowl.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Pinky says:

    @gVOR08:

    Should we adjust audience by population?

    I think that’s basically what market share does.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. inhumans99 says:

    Doug, while it was not over 20 million viewers, the recent NBC Carrie Underwood version of The Sound Of Music drew well over 15m viewers (and this was a three hour event), and to give credit where credit is due to CBS, the average weekly audience for an episode of NCIS is usually 14-18m viewers (even reruns of this show can consistently clock in at over 11m viewers). Granted, the NCIS 18-49 numbers are not as great as many shows on cable with smaller overall audience numbers, but for a show that is 10 years old, such a large weekly audience is still impressive.

    I admit that I am one of the 14-18m NCIS viewers (and I count as a viewer, as far as Madison avenue is concerned, since I fall into the 18-49 range).

    I remember watching the finale of Mash…still miss the show (growing up, I must have seen the syndicated reruns of each Mash episode at least 5-10 times, crazy).

    Also, like many others on the internet, I am kinda surprised the blow out game did not lead to reduced audience numbers for the game, as I am not a sports guy, yet almost from the second the game got started I could tell something was off (the snapped back football sailing over that guys shoulder made me wince even as I was fast forwarding through the game).

    The commercials and movie teasers were also a disappointment. I remember the good old days when people were buzzing after viewing teasers for both The Mummy remake and The Matrix (now THAT was a great game for movie teasers, although the T2 teaser is also acknowledged as one of the great ones that premiered during the superbowl).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. wr says:

    I’d guess that the fracturing of the audience for most programming and the increased domination of events like this are connected — there are fewer and fewer entertainment programs that reach a broad audience now that there are so many choices, so people use something like the Superbowl as a reason for a celebration or a party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. al-Ameda says:

    I tuned into the game just as Malcolm Smith returned the interception for a touchdown – 22-0 Seattle. I then tuned out, skipped the Halftime show too, and tuned back in to see the second half kickoff returned for a touchdown – and that was it – as far as I was concerned, game over. I switched to the NBA to watch some competitive basketball.

    So … am I counted as one of the millions who “watched” that Super Bowl.?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @PJ:

    60.2% of US households watched the M*A*S*H finale, only 47.6% of US households watched Super Bowl XLVIII.

    And, as it turns out, 2 of the worst specials in television history. The M*A*S*H finale was overwrought, really bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. PJ says:

    @al-Ameda:

    So … am I counted as one of the millions who “watched” that Super Bowl.?

    Well, I’m assuming you’re not part of a “Nielsen Family”, so whatever you did doesn’t matter.

    And, as it turns out, 2 of the worst specials in television history. The M*A*S*H finale was overwrought, really bad.

    The I Love Lucy episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” was watched by 71.7% of all US households.
    The 1952–53 season of I Love Lucy was watched by an average of 67.3% of all US households.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: It reminded me of many a past Super Bowl – over before halftime. There has been a rumor that at one of the games league officials went to one of the head coaches and asked of he could slow down the scoring: it seems the network was losing viewers by the millions.
    The stronger defense usually prevails.

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  14. Andre Kenji says:

    @PJ: There was telenovelas in Brazil that were close to 100% of all households until the 80´s.

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