Could Super Bowl LVIII be the most-watched ever?
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Currently, the most-watched Super Bowl in history is actually last year’s Chiefs-Eagles game, which was watched by more than 115 million people. That’s also the second most-watched TV program in history.
Given the league’s fairly incremental gains during the regular season, Super Bowl LVIII is unlikely to blow that audience out of the water, but it could inch past it to claim the crown. That’s thanks to a myriad of things including the fact that the Chiefs are competing for their fourth Super Bowl ring — and their third in five years. And, possibly, Taylor Swift.
Super Bowl Supremacy
No matter what happens, we can expect the Super Bowl to put up an impressive audience.
Of the Top 25 most-watched TV programs in U.S. history, there are 18 Super Bowls on the list. That includes last year’s Chiefs-Eagles matchup, which, in addition to holding the crown for Super Bowl viewership, is also the second most-watched TV program ever.
The only program to beat it? The Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, which was watched by upwards of 150M people. So far, no other program has even come close to touching that record.
Four of the last five Super Bowls are among the Top 25 and, over the years, 12 Super Bowls have managed over 100M viewers.
As of now, to crack into the Top 25 takes more than 92M viewers, which is an increasingly hard metric for TV to hit. That’s why, as time goes on, it’s very likely that even more Super Bowls will snatch up spots on this list. These days, American football is just about the only thing that can gain an audience even half that size.
See below for the viewership managed by each of the Top 25 TV programs of all time.
NFL’s Record Season
This past year, the NFL managed its best regular season in years, which bodes well for a record-breaking Super Bowl LVIII. Across all games, the regular season averaged 17.9M viewers on linear and digital platforms.
That’s the highest since 2015 — tied with 2010 for the second-best season on record, which dates back to 1995. The most-watched game of the season was the Commanders-Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day with more than 40M tuning in.
The audience was up 7% year-over-year in terms of total audience, while the increase in viewership ranged from 4% to 10% in key demographics. Among the under 35 crowd, viewership was the highest it’s been since 2019.
It wasn’t just the regular season that secured strong audiences. In fact, nearly 56M viewers tuned in to watch the Chiefs make it to another Super Bowl in the most-watched AFC Championship of all time. The NFC Championship also saw its best audience since 2012 with around 57M viewers. The week prior the Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills in the most-watched NFL Divisional Playoff game ever with more than 50M viewers tuning in.
The NFL also set a streaming record with the Chiefs-Dolphins Wild Card game, which was exclusive to Peacock. It’s now considered the most-streamed live event ever in the U.S.
Deadline previously dug into why this season was so stellar for the NFL, and there are several factors including close, well-matched games and growing star power among players and their inner circles.
The Chiefs, in particular, boast several of the biggest names in the sport, like Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes. Eagles center Jason Kelce will no doubt attend the Super Bowl in support of his brother, as will Taylor Swift. More on that later, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have all these familiar faces on screen.
Since the NFL has seen gains all season, it stands to reason that the Super Bowl would see a similar kind of growth. If it does, that would put it easily at the top.
Taylor Swift Effect
Contrary to popular belief, the NFL has not dedicated much time to showing Swift on screen at Chiefs’ games. For the AFC Championship, the pop star was only shown for a mere 44 seconds of the entire game.
However, there is no denying her impact on, well, everything lately. What’s particularly interesting is that several of the games she’s attended have seen a significant increase in female viewership.
For example, the Chiefs-Jets broadcast on NBC saw viewership from girls ages 12-17 spike 53% from the season average for the first three games of the season. The audience among women ages 18-24 was also up 24% and women over 35 increased by 34%.
Overall, the NFL said the regular season saw a 9% increase in female viewership, marking the highest female viewership the NFL has ever recorded (with recording beginning in 2000).
The Swift Effect is not exclusive to the NFL. As illustrated below, TV Viewership has ballooned at basically any event Swift has attended over the past year, including the Grammys, the Golden Globes, and even her small cameo on Saturday Night Live to introduce Ice Spice.
There has been online chatter for weeks about whether Swift would be able to make it to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl following a four-day stretch in Tokyo for her Eras Tour. Even the U.S. Embassy to Japan has assured fans that it is entirely possible.
But, truthfully, it might not matter if she even is there — or how long she’s on screen. Just the idea that she might be is enough to drive up viewership as fans hope to catch a glimpse of her cheering on her beau Travis Kelce at the big game.
A Well-Matched Game
Perhaps most importantly, Super Bowl LVIII is shaping up to be a great game.
This Sunday marks the Kansas City Chiefs’ fourth title appearance in the past five years, and a victory would mark their third in the same time frame.
A win on Sunday would also mark their fourth Super Bowl win ever — a feat that only a small number of teams have managed. The others are the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New England Patriots.
Having already won eight consecutive AFC West titles (the second-longest streak of division championships for any team since 1970), it’s safe to say that a Chiefs win on Sunday would cement the team as a dynasty.
Particularly, this is a big game for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It’s his fourth Super Bowl, tying him with Joe Montana and Peyton Manning for the third-most Super Bowls for any quarterback. He’s also played in the AFC Championship Game the past six years, meaning he’s never missed that divisional title game as a starting quarterback.
All that said, the Chiefs are still the underdogs in the upcoming game. According to oddsmakers, the 49ers are the betting favorite to win Sunday.
Regardless, the game is unlikely to be a blowout — which means the NFL wins no matter what. As an NFL source posited to Deadline after the regular season, it’s the “really closely contested games, really competitive games, that more often than not had really fantastic finishes,” which have the power to draw (and keep) a massive audience.
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