Once again the Super Bowl is the most-watched program in U.S. television history, at least officially. 

The most expensive NFL finale to date also set more records on Sunday, after it drew largest pool of bets in Nevada, the gambling-friendly state that hosted the sports gala for the first time.

The game brought in a U.S. audience of 123.4 million viewers, according to initial figures from broadcaster CBS, marking a seven per cent increase from the previous record of 115.1 million who tuned in to the 2023 NFL championship game. Tickets to the game rocketed up to nearly US$10,000 each in January, by far the most expensive ever.

The Kansas City Chiefs won their second-straight Super Bowl title, defeating the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in overtime. The game is routinely the most-watched TV event of the year in the U.S., delivering an audience and advertising windfall to the host network.

The Super Bowl takes up the top ten most-viewed live broadcasts in the U.S., with the final episode of long-running sitcom MASH in 1983 coming eleventh, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research. The Apollo 11 mission is often claimed to have 150 million U.S. viewers, but measurements on estimating TV viewers have changed over time. Nielsen said 53.5 million TV households tuned into the moon landing. 

This year’s Super Bowl viewer number included 120 million on the CBS network and Paramount+, the streaming service of parent Paramount Global. It also set an audience record on Paramount+, CBS said. The game was also carried on the Nickelodeon kids channel as well as other outlets, which contributed to the overall total.

Unsurprisingly given the location, the event also broke betting records. About $185.6 million in bets were placed, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, 21 per cent higher than last year and eclipsing 2022’s high mark of $179.8 million.

The excitement this year was bolstered by the closely followed relationship between Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and pop star Taylor Swift. The broadcast included many shots of Swift watching the action from a suite in the stadium and the couple hugged and kissed at the end of the game.

“She is without a doubt incremental to audience on the NFL,” Paramount Global Chief Executive Bob Bakish said in a Feb. 9 interview with Bloomberg. “She’s a great addition, widening the net of the NFL viewer even further.”

Commercials during the game broadcast went for about $7 million for each 30-second spot. As the networks always do, CBS bookended its actual game coverage with extensive pregame and postgame programming, making the broadcast a full-day event for many viewers.

Live sports, and the NFL in particular, have remained the one reliable tool for marketers to reach large numbers of viewers on TV. Fox Corp. collected $500 million in advertising from last year’s broadcast. 

Some Paramount+ users experienced issues with the broadcast, particularly at the start of the game, according to social media posts and the website Downdetector.com, which tracks complaints.

Paramount said only a “very small number of subscribers experienced an error due to a technical issue with one of our partners, which was quickly rectified.”

The broadcast came at an opportune moment for Paramount. Its controlling shareholders, the Redstone family, are fielding offers for the company, whose assets include CBS, Paramount Pictures and a stable of cable TV channels.

Over on Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter, Super Bowl LVIII drew in 10.5 billion impressions, over 19 million posts and 4.8 million unique users posting on the subject. All those metrics were up by double digits on the previous year, and video views around the game increased by 75 per cent over the 2023 total.