Super Bowl sets TV ratings record, 111.5 million watched

Malcolm Smith of the Seahawks. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Alex Weprin

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Last night's broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII on Fox was both the most-watched event in U.S. TV history, and the most-watched Super Bowl of all time, drawing an average of 111.5 million viewers.

The ratings were something of a surprise, because the game was a blowout, with the Seattle Seahawks dominating the Denver Broncos, and early overnight ratings suggested strong, but not record-breaking, numbers. The game barely topped Super Bowl XLVI, which aired two years ago on NBC, which averaged 111.3 million viewers, and featured a close game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.

The ratings continue to show that the Super Bowl is a juggernaut unlike anything else on TV. Three of the last four Super Bowls have set TV ratings records. While most broadcast programming is losing viewers in an increasingly fragmented video landscape, football--and the Super Bowl in particular--remain untouched by the changes happening in the rest of the media industry.

The Super Bowl halftime show, which featured performances by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, actually averaged 115.3 million viewers. Last year's performance by Beyonce averaged 110.8 million viewers.

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Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed President Obama during the pre-game show at 4:30 p.m. The interview averaged 18.5 million viewers, with a 10.3 household rating/20 share. 

Overall, the Super Bowl pre-game show drew its best viewership in 12 years, with an average of 23.1 million people tuning in from 2 p.m. to kickoff at 6:33 p.m., peaking from 6-6:33. After the game, Fox aired the post-game show and two of its comedies, "New Girl" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." Those programs averaged 65.4 million, 25.8 million and 14.8 million viewers, respectively.