What Is the Most Watched Super Bowl Ever?
It’s no secret that the NFL is the most-watched sport in the United States — and it’s really not even close anymore. While ratings in other sports have declined over the years, NFL viewership has remained relatively stable. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Super Bowl is the most-watched sporting event each and every year.
But the Super Bowl doesn’t only reign supreme in the world of sports, as the Big Game is annually the most-watched television broadcast overall.
So what is the most-watched Super Bowl of all time? Here’s a look at the top five.
5. Super Bowl 51 — 111.32 million viewers, Fox
Kicking off the list was the Super Bowl 51 matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, home of the Houston Texans.
Led by 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan, the Falcons famously held a 28-3 lead early in the third quarter. But 111.32 million viewers watched on Fox as Tom Brady staged the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, leading the Patriots to a dramatic 34-28 win in overtime.
4. Super Bowl 46 — 111.35 million viewers, NBC
Up next on our most-watched Super Bowl list was the Super Bowl 46 matchup between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants from Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.
Aired on NBC, this game featured Tom Brady attempting to get his revenge on a New York squad that had ruined New England’s undefeated season four years earlier.
But just as it went the first time, Eli Manning led the underdog Giants to victory as an average of 111.35 million viewers saw New York take a 21-17 victory, giving the G-Men a new record as the team with the worst regular-season record (9-7, .563 winning percentage) for an NFL champion.
3. Super Bowl 50 — 111.86 million viewers, CBS
Peyton Manning‘s swan song comes in at number three as 111.86 million viewers tuned in to CBS to watch his Denver Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite going 12-4 during the regular season, the Broncos were actually 5.5-point underdogs in this game as the Panthers, led by 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton, had taken just one loss on the year.
But the Denver defense, led by game MVP Von Miller, shut down the Carolina offense in a 24-10 victory.
2. Super Bowl 48 — 112.19 million viewers, Fox
In second place on the most-watched Super Bowls of all time list is the Super Bowl 48 matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks from MetLife Stadium, the shared home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
Unlike their title-game appearance two years later, Peyton Manning and the Broncos came into this game as heavy favorites as they’d averaged a Super Bowl-era record 37.9 points per game en route to a 13-3 record during the regular season.
But in a stunning upset viewed by 112.19 million people on Fox, the Seattle defense shut Denver down while Russell Wilson (then in just his second season) and the Seahawks’ offense dominated in an easy 43-8 victory.
1. Super Bowl 49 — 114.44 million viewers, NBC
The most-watched Super Bowl of all time came one year later as the Seattle Seahawks attempted to win back-to-back titles as they squared off with the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, home of the Arizona Cardinals.
After losing a 10-point lead in the second half, the Seahawks trailed 28-24 with less than 30 seconds remaining but were on the New England 1-yard line, and a go-ahead score seemed inevitable. But instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson attempted a quick pass that Malcolm Butler intercepted as 114.44 million viewers watched on NBC.
A couple of Tom Brady kneeldowns later, the Patriots were handed their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
Not only was this the most-watched Super Bowl ever, but this game also holds the record for the largest average viewership for any single-network broadcast in American history. Only the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969 had more viewers, but that was televised on multiple networks.