Super Bowl XLVIII Draws Record 111.5 Million Viewers

The NFL’s Nielsen appeal remains unparalleled.

Despite one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history, Fox's telecast of Seattle-Denver Sunday night averaged 111.5 million total watchers, marking a new U.S. TV viewing record, according to Nielsen data.

The Seahawks’ 43-8 demolition of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. eased past Super Bowl XLVI -- NBC averaged 111.3 for the New York Giants’ 21-17 triumph over the New England Patriots in a game that wasn’t settled until the final play -- as the most-watched program in American TV history.

Fox’s Feb. 2 telecast had to overcome what was the NFL championship game's first blowout -- Seattle scored a safety in the first 12 seconds when center Manny Ramirez hiked the ball over Peyton Manning's head -- since Tampa Bay clouted Oakland 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. Moreover, Seattle’s skewering of Denver -- Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith returned Peyton Manning’s second-quarter pass for a touchdown and a 22-0 lead, before Percy Harvin took the second-half kickoff to the house to remove any hopes for a competitive contest --  was tied for the third-most lopsided contest in Super Bowl history with Dallas’ 52-17 destruction of Buffalo in 1993, and behind Chicago’s 46-10 triumph over New England in 1986 and San Francisco’s 55-10 rout of the Broncos in 1990.

With the impressive delivery on Feb. 2, three of the previous four Super Bowls have now set U.S. TV records for average viewership. The only one that didn't was last year's game in which Baltimore held off San Francisco 34-31, which averaged 108.9 million, even though CBS’s telecast was delayed by more than a half-hour owing to a power outage in the Superdome in New Orleans.

Super Bowl XLVIII posted a 46.4 rating/6 share, matching those measures for last year’s Ravens-49ers clash, according to Nielsen fast national figures. The last two NFL title tilts are tied with Super Bowl XVIII and XIX as the seventh-highest-rated Super Bowls ever.

The rating for the first Super Bowl played in at outdoor, cold-weather local (although it was relatively balmy for a night in early February) started very strongly with a 44.5/70 at kickoff, the best on record, and up 12% from a year ago. Fox officials said ratings climbed through the first half and peaked at a 47.9/71 in the 7:30 p.m. half hour, when Seattle established its 22-0 halftime lead.  Amazingly, most of the audience stuck around for the lopsided proceedings: Super Bowl XLVIII game earned a 44.0/63 from 9:30 p.m. to the conclusion, with the rating only 5% below its full-game average.

Locally, Kansas City led all markets with a 58.1/78, followed by Seattle (56.7/92, the market’s best Super Bowl performance ever), Indianapolis (53.9/74), New Orleans (53.2/72), Tulsa (52.9/71), Las Vegas (52.5/75), Portland (52.4/82), Knoxville (52.3/68), Jacksonville (52.0/68) while Denver (51.4/83) and Tampa (51.4/71) round out the Top 10.  Host market New York delivered a 50.5, its best Super Bowl rating since 1987 (Super Bowl XXI: Giants vs. Broncos, 53.4).

The record-breaking trend also extended to the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show, with 115.3 million viewers watching Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform. That figure surpassed the 110.8 million delivered by Beyonce last year and the prior record of 114.0 million set by Madonna two years ago.

Live coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII was also available in the U.S. on a Spanish-language channel for the first time: Fox Deportes averaged 561,000 viewers, the most-watched non-soccer sports event in the history of Spanish-language cable in the U.S.