It’s perhaps not a surprise that a game as aggressively boring as Sunday’s Denver-Carolina Super Bowl matchup — which felt more like a preseason defensive grind than the culmination of the NFL playoff process — didn’t break any regular TV records. The Bronco defense’s thorough dismantling of Cam Newton’s offensive playbook was about as exciting to watch as your cousin’s kid’s soccer game. Even the ads were bad.
And so only (“only” being a relative term, of course) an average of 111.9 million Americans tuned in to Super Bowl 50 on CBS Sunday.
That number is nothing to sneeze at, as it still beats the living daylights out of anything else on the tube, though it does put Super Bowl 50 behind Super Bowl XLIX (114.4 million) and Super Bowl XLVIII (112.2 million) in terms of record audiences. It’s worth noting that viewership peaked with 115.5 viewers from 8:30-9 p.m. EST, which was, coincidentally, when the halftime show — featuring Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Coldplay — took place.
CBS made the game available to stream (complete with all the national ads) to anyone with a broadband connection. An average of 1.4 million people per minute took advantage of the streaming option, with an average stream length of 101 minutes. For comparison, last year’s Super Bowl stream, courtesy of NBC, drew an average of 800,000 viewers per minute, peaking at 1.3 million during an intense, late-fourth-quarter comeback attempt by the Seattle Seahawks, who were ultimately defeated by the New England Patriots. No such play presented itself to this year’s audience.
Meanwhile, after the postgame show ended at 10:54 p.m. EST, Stephen Colbert got his shot at reintroducing himself to the sozzled American masses. Just over 21 million people kept their TVs turned on until the special live edition of Colbert's "Late Show" ended at midnight, with about 10.7 million of those falling in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic.
It's hard to compare Colbert's outing with other post-Super Bowl fare. Last year's postgame episode of "The Blacklist" drew 25.7 million viewers, but it also had a record-breaking lead-in of a game and is a scripted show besides. "The Late Show" marked the first time a late-night show had been given the post-Bowl slot.
The real test for Colbert comes in the next couple of weeks to see if he can retain any of those viewers. Colbert has fallen far behind his time slot competition, Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" on NBC.