At this point, not setting a ratings record is essentially a disappointment for the Super Bowl. So Sunday’s Denver-Carolina 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 Denver Broncos ultimately topped the Carolina 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. 2014 set a record with an absurdly lopsided 43-8 victory for the Seattle Seahawks. 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.