TV Ratings: Super Bowl Hits 14-Year Low

Even the Super Bowl is not immune to linear TV ratings declines.

Super Bowl LV was, as the game always is, the most watched television broadcast of the year. Sunday's game, however, is the least watched NFL championship game since 2007.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs averaged 96.4 million viewers across all platforms, including CBS, ESPN Deportes and streaming on CBS Sports, NFL and Verizon digital and mobile properties. It's down about 5.5 percent from last year's all-in audience and the smallest total tune-in for a Super Bowl since 93.18 million people watched Super Bowl XLI in 2007.

The TV only audience for CBS is 91.63 million viewers, off by 8 percent vs. Fox's broadcast of Super Bowl LIV last year (99.91 million viewers, later adjusted to 113 million including out of home viewing) and the smallest for the game since 2006. The game drew a household rating of 38.2 (meaning 38.2 percent of all TV homes in the United States were watching the game), the first time that number has fallen below 40 since 1990. The Super Bowl's audience share, however, was fairly consistent with recent years, with 68 percent of all TVs in use during the game tuned to CBS.

The game had an average audience of 5.7 million on streaming platforms, an all-time high for the Super Bowl. It's up 65 percent from a year ago — although digital viewership still only made up about 6 percent of the total audience.

The on-air declines for the Super Bowl are in line with ratings losses for the NFL's regular season, when games were down about 7 percent year to year. The first two rounds of the playoffs also fell, although the conference championship games on Jan. 24 improved.

Following the game the series premiere of The Equalizer drew 20.4 million viewers, the most for any non-sports telecast since the Oscars last year but down from the 23.7 million who watched The Masked Singer on Fox after Super Bowl LIV. The Equalizer also scored a 5.1 rating among adults 18-49, easily the highest for an entertainment program this season.

A special edition of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert at 12:14 a.m. ET/9:14 p.m. PT brought in 4.8 million viewers, its largest tune-in since the show last aired after the Super Bowl two years ago.

Ratings for Super Bowl LV were repeatedly delayed Monday due to issues with Nielsen's data. "Super Bowl numbers are still being processed and verified," Nielsen said in a statement Monday evening. "We anticipate that final viewing figures, which will include out of home viewing, will be available to the media tomorrow. We will update the press and the industry accordingly when a final timeline is confirmed."

That's extremely unusual: Nielsen's first set of ratings, the fast nationals, are usually released about 11 a.m. ET each day. Those numbers aren't very accurate for live telecasts, but networks can (and often do) order time zone-adjusted ratings that usually follow a couple hours later. Final numbers for Sunday shows, which include out of home viewership, are then updated early Tuesday.

The first two steps didn't happen Monday, and Nielsen skipped straight to the last one on Tuesday morning.

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Feb. 9, 6:05 a.m. Updated with ratings figures for the Super Bowl and post-game programming.