Super Bowl LI capped off a mixed-bag NFL season on Sunday night with expectedly high ratings.
A win for the New England Patriots, the franchise’s fifth with quarterback Tom Brady, the game climbed to tie the second-most-watched Super Bowl ever for an average 113.7 million viewers. (Earlier on Monday, Nielsen’s metered markets had the game earning a 48.8 overnight rating among households, steady with 2016.)
The total is not for broadcast alone, as it does include 1.7 million streaming viewers and an additional 650,000 from the Spanish-language simulcast on Fox Deportes. Apples to apples, Super Bowl LI earned 111.3 million linear viewers for a near tie with last year’s game.
The outcome of Sunday’s game may have been a familiar one for the Patriots, but the path to get there was anything but normal. New England came back from an incredible deficit after the Atlanta Falcons took an early and decisive lead, ultimately forcing the game into overtime — a first, surprisingly, for a Super Bowl.
It’s not only nearly a record for the Super Bowl, it’s the all-time most-watched telecast in Fox history. That’s still a bit off from 2015, the Patriots’ most recent win prior to Sunday, which stands as the all-time most-watched game with a grand total of 114.5 million viewers.
Ending on a high note was much-needed by the NFL. The start of 2016 brought ratings drops for the league, particularly its primetime franchises, prompting months of harsh headlines and questions about whether it had expanded to too many nights of the week. But after the presidential election, audiences perked back up and the post-season was stronger than last year’s.
Super Bowl LI was also great news for Fox. The network, which had rights to the rotating game this year, kicked off the season in last place among the Big Four networks. But the World Series helped drive it back up — and the weight of even one night as big as Sunday will be enough to lift it again. The jury is still out on how much of the Super Bowl audience stuck around for the premiere of 24: Legacy. Fox gave its new drama the prime post-game roost, a slot rarely given to a new show.