A 22-point margin of victory and the ongoing decline in traditional TV usage conspired to put the bite on the Super Bowl LV ratings, as CBS’s coverage of the Chiefs-Bucs showdown averaged 96.4 million total viewers across all platforms. According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the flagship broadcast delivered 91.6 million viewers, which marks the lowest turnout for the Big Game’s TV audience since 2007.
This marks the third consecutive year in which the linear Super Bowl broadcast failed to average at least 100 million viewers without a much-needed boost from streaming impressions. The standalone network TV deliveries for last year’s game on Fox averaged out to 99.9 million viewers, while CBS’s presentation of the low-scoring Rams-Patriots slog in 2019 drew 98.5 million.
More granular demographic data will be available later today, but it’s likely that the relative lack of drama on the field and the dearth of Super Bowl parties had a chilling effect on the number of casual fans who might have otherwise tuned in.
The final ratings for the 55th Super Bowl broadcast include out-of-home impressions.
In beating the defending champs by a 31-9 margin, the Bucs snuffed out a good deal of the talk about Tom Brady passing the torch to Patrick Mahomes. Brady collected his seventh Super Bowl ring after a night that saw him connect on 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Brady’s 125.8 passer rating dwarfed Mahomes’s 52.3 score; last year’s MVP was held without a touchdown pass for the first time since September 2019 and threw two interceptions.
The inclusive deliveries, which include a record average-minute-audience of 5.7 million streaming viewers, add up to the smallest Super Bowl audience since CBS carried the 41st title tilt in 2007. Peyton Manning’s first trip to the Big Game ended in his Colts topping the Bears 29-17 in front of an audience of 93.2 million viewers.
If Sunday night’s game was demonstrably short on theatrics, the erosion of traditional TV usage certainly didn’t do CBS or the NFL any favors. According to Nielsen data, overall broadcast TV deliveries were down 20% through last Thursday, as CBS/NBC/ABC/Fox have averaged 16.9 million viewers per night, down from 21.1 million in the year-ago period.
As much as the outcome was far from ideal, it’s worth noting that broadcasters do not make ratings guarantees to their Super Bowl advertisers, and as such, are not on the hook for any perceived under-deliveries. In other words, CBS won’t have to hand over a whole lot of free ad inventory to compensate the marketers who invested up to $5.6 million for each 30-second unit of national commercial time that aired in Sunday’s game.
If anything, the weaker deliveries may be more of a burden for NBC to bear, as pricing for its upcoming broadcast of Super Bowl LVI will in some way be informed by this year’s deliveries. Ironically, this wasn’t originally meant to be CBS’s turn in the Super Bowl rotation; the network in 2019 swapped games with NBC so that the latter could use the 2022 NFL championship gala as a launch pad for its Beijing Winter Olympics.