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2021 Super Bowl draws 96.4 million TV and streaming viewers, lowest since 2007

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady raises his hands amid confetti.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after his team defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl LV football game Sunday in Tampa, Fla.
( Ashley Landis / AP)

CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz and analyst Tony Romo believed Super Bowl LV would be one for the ages with Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.

But the Bucs feasted on the injury-ridden offensive line of the Chiefs, leading to a lopsided 31-9 victory for Brady and driving the TV audience for the game to 91.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen data, the lowest since 2007. An additional 5.7 million viewers watched the game over a digital stream, bringing the total to 96.4 million.

The audience size for the broadcast that aired from 6:38 to 10:17 p.m. Eastern likely had a decline in the number of viewers watching in each home, as public health officials recommended that people avoid having their traditional large Super Bowl gatherings to avoid the coronavirus. The lack of competition in the game, where the Bucs led the Chiefs 21-6 at halftime, did not help.

The Super Bowl audience has leveled off from its all-time high of 114.4 million viewers on NBC in 2015, but has retained its perennial spot as the most watched program of the year. Last year, the Chiefs’ win over the San Francisco 49ers was watched by 102.1 million viewers on Fox and streaming platforms.

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Traditional TV viewing has been on a steady decline as more viewers turn to streaming platforms for video content. TV sports have held up far better than entertainment programs, but they have seen some audience erosion as well because of the proliferation of options for consumers.

CBS has sold out the ads for the game at $5.5 million for 30 seconds. But advertisers will be navigating a potential social media minefield.

The pandemic disrupted most of the sports seasons, leading to record audience lows for such events as the NBA Finals, the World Series and the Masters golf tournament. The NFL was able to play all of its games despite some postponements due to coronavirus outbreaks on several teams.

A record number of viewers watched the livestream of the Super Bowl with an average of 5.7 million — up 65% from last year. Those internet-connected viewers see the same telecast — and national commercials — as TV viewers.

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CBS sold all of its commercial time on the game, with advertisers paying an average of $5.5 million for a 30-second spot. Unlike most TV commercial buys, the audience level for the Super Bowl is not guaranteed.


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