The trend of Super Bowls setting viewership records was broken on Sunday night when the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers. Super Bowl 50 was the third-most watched television program in U.S. history.
The ratings were down for the 2016 Super Bowl, but the contest still drew an average of 111.9 million viewers. More than one-third of the country’s population watched the game on TV, even though it was one of the ugliest games in Super Bowl history. Denver beat Carolina by 14 points after four of the previous five Super Bowls had been decided by one score.
It’s of little surprise that the 2015 Super Bowl set a record for viewership. An average of 114.4 million people watched the New England Patriots defeat the Seattle Seahawks. The game was shrouded in controversy because of the Deflategate scandal, and the outcome wasn’t determined until the final minute.
The 2014 Super Bowl was the second-most watched show ever, but that game was less competitive than Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning and the Broncos lost by 35 points to the Seahawks, and Denver was down 22-0 at halftime.
Prior to this year, the Super Bowl had set viewership records in five of the previous six years. After 111.0 million people watched the 2011 Super Bowl, 111.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in 2012. The 2013 Super Bowl saw a dip in viewership as an average of 108.7 million watched the game that was interrupted by a 34-minute blackout in the third quarter.
The 2010 Super Bowl was the first to top 100 million viewers, and the number hasn’t gone below nine figures since then. The 1986 Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears and Patriots was the first to top 90 million viewers, and the game didn’t reach that milestone again until 1993.
Super Bowl 50 did manage to draw the second-highest overnight rating in the game’s history with a 49.0 rating and a 73 share. The record was set last year with a 49.7 rating. The series finale of “M.A.S.H.” still holds the all-time record with a rating north of 60.0 in 1983.