The news

Super Bowl 58, the showpiece finale of the latest season of American football’s NFL, drew the largest recorded TV audience in US history.

The game, hosted by Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, was broadcast on the Paramount-owned national network CBS and drew an average of 123.4 million viewers – outstripping the previous record of 115.1 million secured by Fox’s broadcast of last year’s edition.

A total of 202.4 million viewers watched the Super Bowl across the networks, the highest total audience in history, up 10% when compared to last year’s audience of 182.6 million.

The total viewership came across all broadcasts including CBS, CBS Sports, Spanish-language channel Univision, and the alternate child-friendly edition on Nickelodeon, as well as the Paramount+, ViX, Univision Now, and NFL+ streaming services.

CBS alone secured a total viewership of 120 million – the largest audience in history for a television show on a single network. That figure includes out-of-home viewership, a component not usually included before the mid-to-late 2010s.

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The inclusion means other Super Bowls with similarly high viewership before that time may have surpassed this year’s edition, including the 112 million viewers who officially tuned into Super Bowl 51. With the out-of-home viewership included, that figure could have reached as much as 124 million.

This year’s game was also the most-watched edition in Spanish on TelevisaUnivision, with an average of 2.3 million viewers across all platforms, up 160% when compared to last year’s match on the Fox Deportes channel, and 20% above Telemundo’s 2022 Super Bowl coverage, which held the previous record.

The game also broke streaming audience records, becoming the most-streamed live sporting event ever on TelevisaUnivision’s streaming service ViX in the US.

Why it matters

The combination of two widely supported teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs (the Chiefs won 25-22 in overtime), the fact the game went to a highly tense overtime period, as well as each side’s star-studded offenses, were likely factors in drawing such high viewership for Super Bowl 58, as was the media frenzy around pop-star Taylor Swift’s presence at the game to watch her boyfriend, the Chiefs' Travis Kelce, lift the trophy.

Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis and consulting at Sporcal (GlobalData Sport), said: “While the hype around the SuperBowl, and Taylor Swift's presence in the stands supporting her partner Travis Kelce, will have no doubt drawn eyeballs and attention to the premier American Football event and is driving the narrative regarding an increase in viewership, the truth behind the huge jump in audience is likely to be slightly more mundane.

“While the Taylor Swift effect is likely to have led to an increase in women and girls watching the event, the change in how audiences are measured for events such as this is likely to be a more significant factor. Out-of-home audiences are being measured significantly, a change that came about during the pandemic, and this means that audiences watching in bars, airports, and restaurants are being measured in a serious way.

“With this new methodology driving audience numbers, audiences for most sports shows are up across the board in the US. Worryingly for them, the NBA is the only sport where audiences are being seen to increase, a concern ahead of their media rights renewal in 2025.”

The details

CBS last broadcast the Super Bowl in 2021, when it aired Super Bowl 55, at 91.6 million English-language viewers, the lowest-watched Super Bowl since 2006.

CBS next holds the rights to broadcast the Super Bowl in February 2028, when it will broadcast Super Bowl 62 at the end of the 2027 season. Fox, NBC, and ABC/ESPN, respectively, will broadcast the next three editions of the end-of-season showpiece finale.

The record viewership tally serves as the culmination of a season of abnormally strong viewership for the NFL.

The championship round that decided the two Super Bowl participants recorded soaring year-on-year viewership, with the AFC Championship game seeing its highest viewership on record, and the NFC championship game averaging even more viewers than that.

The viewership announcement also arrived just days before CBS’ owner Paramount Global announced it is laying off 800 employees.

The company informed staff of its intention to reduce its global workforce by about 3% through an internal memo, with chief executive Bob Bakish writing: “While I realize these changes are in no way easy … I am confident this is the right decision for our future. These adjustments will help us build on our momentum and execute our strategic vision for the year ahead – and I firmly believe we have much to be excited about.”

The move itself came as no surprise after an earlier memo sent last month stated the company’s desire to reduce costs and grow revenue by reducing its workforce. However, the number being laid off was not anticipated.

Both the redundancies and high Super Bowl viewership come as Paramount, the fusion of media giants Viacom and CBS, reportedly continues to hold early merger talks with Skydance Media and Warner Bros. Discovery.

The company’s streaming platform Paramount+ has been losing money each quarter, the latest being $238 million in the third quarter of last year. The company is due to report its fourth-quarter earnings on February 28.

According to a regulatory filing, at the end of 2022, Paramount had about 244,500 full-time and part-time across 37 countries and some 5,800 project-based staff on its payroll.

The media giant owns movie studio Paramount Pictures, television networks Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and the UK's Channel 5, and streaming platforms Pluto and Paramount+.