Super Bowl LVIII becomes most-watched program ever with 123.4 million viewers: How it set the record

If you watched Kansas City’s 25-22 overtime win over San Francisco on Sunday night in a memorable Super Bowl LVIII from Las Vegas, well, you had plenty of company. The telecast averaged 123.4 million viewers across all platforms, the most-watched program ever according to CBS Sports. The figure was up seven percent from last year’s game, which set the previous record of 115.1 million viewers. CBS’ 120.0 million viewers is the largest audience in history for a single network.

CBS Sports’ total viewership number was made up of CBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon, Univision, CBS Sports and NFL digital properties including NFL+.

The Kansas City Chiefs won their third Super Bowl in five years. Patrick Mahomes threw for 333 yards, two touchdowns and one interception en route to his third Super Bowl MVP award.

Why did it set a record?

It’s not a mystery you need Matlock to solve. Super Bowl LVIII is only the second Super Bowl to reach overtime, which means that the majority of the audience did not abandon the game in the fourth quarter. There is always significant publicity for every Super Bowl matchup but this one was boosted by two teams that have been viewership draws in recent years, especially the Chiefs.

There was also major viewership momentum heading in. Look at the previous weeks: The Chiefs at the Baltimore Ravens was the most-watched AFC Championship Game ever, averaging 55.473 million viewers; the Buffalo Bills versus the Chiefs in the divisional round topped 50 million viewers; and Fox’s airing of the 49ers hosting the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship Game averaged 56.9 million viewers. Yes, these games were boosted by out-of-home viewership but they topped last year’s mark which is an apples to apples comparison.

This is anecdotal, but I think Las Vegas had unique appeal as a first time host and a longtime epicenter of sports gambling. Finally, Taylor Swift — given her level of fame — unquestionably prompted some people who don’t sample the Super Bowl to watch. Last year’s Super Bowl drew an average audience of 115.1 million viewers across Fox, Fox Deportes and digital streaming, which topped the 114.4 million viewers who watched New England dramatically win Super Bowl XLIX on NBC in 2015. (The average audience has long been used to determine the most-watched game as opposed to the peak audience.) — Richard Deitsch, senior writer

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(Photo: Michael Owens / Getty Images)

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