The CBS telecast of Super Bowl 50 averaged 111.9 million viewers, a drop of 2% from last year but still the third most-watched TV program in history according to Nielsen.
The Denver Broncos' 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers fell short of the 114.4 million viewers who watched last year's heart-stopping finish of the New England Patriots' win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on NBC and Super Bowl XLVIII, which drew 112.2 million viewers on Fox in 2014.
The matchup had a great storyline with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning possibly ending his brilliant career with a Super Bowl ring. But a tight, competitive finish is what pushes the ratings to new heights. Super Bowl 50 did not have one.
The ratings for the games peaked in the 8:30-9 p.m. Eastern half-hour with 115.5 million viewers.
Although the number is off slightly from last year's record-setter, the championship game for the NFL retains its status as the most-watched program of the year, one of the last absolutes in the fast-changing television industry that has been upended by expanding viewer choices. The average price for a 30-second commercial during the game is expected to be about $4.8 million.
The live video stream of the game drew 3.96 million unique viewers across Internet-connected devices. The stream, which was sold to advertisers in tandem with the telecast, had an average audience of 1.4 million viewers.
"The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" scored 21.12 million viewers in its special post Super Bowl airing, from 10:54 p.m. to 12:01 a.m. Eastern (it aired live across the country). It was the first time a late-night program had received the coveted time slot after the game. The network achieved its intention of getting sampling for the program, which has averaged 2.9 million viewers a night in the 2015-16 TV season.
Last year, NBC used the record-setting Super Bowl XLIX lead-in to boost an episode of its hit drama "The Blacklist," which averaged 26.5 million viewers. Networks that choose to put established hits in the time period do so to capitalize on the high advertising rates they can charge.
CBS also saw a big boost for its other late-night program, "The Late Late Show With James Corden." A special airing, which started at 12:36 a.m. Eastern but was seen live across the country, averaged 4.97 million viewers, more than three times its season average of 1.25 million viewers this season.