TV Ratings: CBS’ Super Bowl LV Telecast Down From Last Year, Draws About 92 Million TV Viewers

Mónica Marie Zorrilla
·4-min read

CBS’ multiplatform broadcast of Super Bowl LV fell below the 100 million viewer threshold but set a record for streaming viewing on Sunday, according to Nielsen Live+Same Day fast affiliate ratings.

CBS averaged 92 million viewers who watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers outscore the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9, according to Nielsen. Additionally, the game had a 38.2 U.S. household rating and was viewed in an average of 45.2 million homes across the country— this year, 68% of U.S. homes with television access were tuned into the Super Bowl telecast. The network not only ran the 2021 NFL championship game, but also all national ads, the halftime show featuring the Weeknd, and pre and postgame coverage.

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CBS said the game drew an average minute audience of 5.7 million viewers on streaming platforms, but despite the rise in streaming numbers, viewership was down more than 5% from last year. The 2020 battle for the Vince Lombardi trophy between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers drew 102 million total viewers across Fox and all of its platforms. The Eye reported 96.4 million average total viewers per minute — the 92 million TV viewers that Nielsen counted for broadcast and streaming, and an additional 4.6 million viewer who watched on platforms not counted by Nielsen, including mobile apps such as ESPN Deportes.

For more comparison, 2019’s matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams on CBS averaged approximately 98.2 million viewers on the network alone— the Super Bowl’s lowest viewership total since 2008— and 100.7 million across all CBS platforms. The 2018 Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles on NBC drew 103.4 million.

This year’s game featured two small-market teams in Tampa Bay and Kansas City, but also two of the league’s biggest stars in Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. But, CBS was not helped by the dismal on-field action, which saw the Bucs take the lead in the late first quarter and widen it consistently as the game went on, while the Chiefs undid themselves with defensive penalties and uncharacteristically sloppy offensive play. The 22-point margin of victory was the largest for a Super Bowl in 18 years.

Streaming service CBS All Access also crashed for several minutes at the top of the game, preventing many viewers from being able to stream kick-off and the Bucs’ initial possession.

According to estimates for Super Bowl LV on ESPN Deportes, an average of 647,000 viewers tuned in. This data includes out-of-home (OOH) viewing and could see further increases via Digital in TV Ratings (DTVR) contribution.

Airing immediately after the game, the series premiere of “The Equalizer” starring Queen Latifah averaged 20.4 million total viewers, down 16% from what Fox drew to the Season 3 premiere of “The Masked Singer” following last year’s more highly rated Super Bowl. “The Equalizer” drew a 5.1 rating in the 18-49 demo. The reboot of the classic TV action drama was the highest-rated entertainment program since 2020’s Academy Awards telecast.

Later in the evening on CBS, the post-Super Bowl special edition of “A Late Show With Stephen Colbert” with guests Robert Downey Jr., Tiffany Haddish and Metallica averaged 4.8 million viewers and 1.1 demo ratings.

Over on the Spanish language giants, Univision aired new episodes of “Aquí y Ahora” at 7 p.m. (0.2, 0.88), the finale of “Imperio de Mentiras” at 8 p.m. (0.3, 1.12) and 9 p.m. (0.3, 1.45), and “Sal y Pimienta” at 10 p.m. (0.2, 0.85). Throughout the evening, Telemundo ran a new episode of the athletic skill and endurance competition series “Exatlón Estados Unidos” (0.2, 0.77) at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. (0.3, 0.93), as well as a special airing of “American Assassin,” starring Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton, at 9 p.m. through the end of the night (0.2, 0.64).

Ratings for Sunday night were released a full day later than expected, an extraordinary delay that Nielsen acknowledged with a statement Monday night: “Super Bowl numbers are still being processed and verified. We anticipate that final viewing figures, which will include Out Of Home (OOH) viewing, will be available to the media tomorrow. We will update the press and the industry accordingly when a final timeline is confirmed.”

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