Boosted by a close finish that became a trademark of NFL contests this past season, NBC’s telecast Sunday of the Los Angeles Rams’ 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI scored an average audience of 112.3 million viewers across TV and streaming platforms.
The audience for Sunday’s game ranks second to the 114.4 million viewers for NBC’s Super Bowl telecast in 2015. The New England Patriots’ stunning 28-24 comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks was the most watched TV event in U.S. history.
The figure, which combines the traditional TV audience measured by Nielsen and a streaming figure provided by NBC’s research department is up 16.5% from 2021, when the Super Bowl hit a 14-year-low.
The TV audience counted by Nielsen was 101.1 million viewers, up from 91.6 million in 2021. Streaming platforms added another 11.2 million viewers, making it the most streamed live event in U.S. history.
NBC carried the game on its flagship broadcast network, its Spanish language channel Telemundo, and its streaming service Peacock, which offered the game to premium subscribers. The game was also available to stream on the NFL’s app and Yahoo Sports. Viewers who streamed the telecast made up 10% of the total audience.
The massive audience number shows that the Super Bowl and the NFL overall are still largely immune from the overall trend in viewing, where the proliferation of choices offered online has chipped away at other major TV programs and events such as the Academy Awards. Many advertisers paid a record $7 million for a 30-second commercial in the game.
The bump in viewing for this year’s matchup at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood was the result of the close score and an audience that was likely more highly engaged than any other Super Bowl. The American Gambling Assn. estimated that 31.4 million people were planning to bet on the game, a 35% increase from 2021.
The widening acceptance of wagering using online apps and sports books is behind the increase, as 45 million more people were able to place legal bets on the game than last year. The AGA estimated that $7.61 billion was wagered on the game.
The favored Rams rallied late to overcome a 20-16 Bengals lead, thanks to a touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp with 90 seconds left in the game. But the Rams failed to cover the four-point spread, giving solace to bettors who chose the underdog Bengals.
The game compared favorably to the 202`1 telecast on CBS, where the Tampa Buccaneers topped the Kansas City Chiefs by a lopsided 31-9 outcome.
The NFL’s popularity continues to be resilient despite ongoing controversies. The league recovered from a ratings dip that occurred after player protests of social justice issues turned off some fans.
This past month, the NFL has come under fire for its paucity of Black coaches. Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is suing the league and three of its teams, alleging discrimination regarding his job interview process for several open positions and his recent firing.
This year’s ratings were also helped by a pitch perfect halftime show, featuring hip-hop legends Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Eminem.
While many of the hits performed were from previous decades — four of the performers are 49 and older — it still felt contemporary enough for younger viewers and edgy for the notoriously cautious NFL.