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At this point, not setting a ratings record is essentially a disappointment for the Super Bowl. So Sunday’s Denver Broncos-Carolina Panthers showdown, which aired on CBS, played out under a shroud of lofty expectations — and it will have to settle for No. 3 status.
An average 111.9 million viewers watched the 2015 Super Bowl, trailing last year’s game by roughly 2.5 million. That update is in line with the first number for Super Bowl 50, per Nielsen’s metered markets, a 49 rating and a massive 73 share among households. The 2015 overnight rating marked an all-time high for the Super Bowl, ultimately translating to a best-ever 114.4 million viewers. It topped the previous year’s game (112.2 million viewers) to become the most-watched telecast in U.S. TV history, a record it still holds.
Working against Super Bowl 50 was the fact that it was a relatively low-scoring game. Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos ultimately topped the Panthers 24-10 in a pairing that was not nearly as competitive as the year prior. But scores are not something that appear to affect the Super Bowl, as 2014 set a record with an absurdly lopsided 43-8 victory for the Seattle Seahawks over Denver. It’s one of several ways in which the Super Bowl has proven itself immune to TV’s trends of ratings fatigue. Even by its own lofty standards, and seemingly regardless of play, the biggest night of the U.S. TV calendar has consistently been outdoing itself in recent years.
The halftime show is also often just as big of a draw as the game itself. Last year’s performance, headlined by Katy Perry, reached 118.5 million live viewers — only just shy of the audience surge during a pivotal turnover. Sunday’s halftime show featured performances by Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyonce.
The post-game outing of Stephen Colbert’s Late Show naturally set an all-time high for the host’s CBS tenure, but early ratings have it performing below recent shows to get that time slot. Colbert averaged 21.1 million viewers and a 8.4 rating among adults 18-49. That’s off from the last two series — NBC’s The Blacklist (26.5 million and a 8.7 demo rating in 2015), and Fox’s New Girl (25.8 million and a 11.1 demo rating in 2014) — to air after the Super Bowl, but better than CBS’ last go in the slot (Elementary took 20.8 million viewers and a 7.8 demo rating in 2013).
The Late Late Show With James Corden brought a franchise high with nearly 5 million viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 18-49.
See how recent Super Bowls stacked up in both households ratings and total viewers:
2015: 49.7 rating, 114.4 million viewers
2014: 46.4 rating, 112.2 million viewers
2013: 48.1 rating, 108.4 million viewers
2012: 47.8 rating, 111.3 million viewers
2011: 47.9 rating, 111 million viewers
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