The National Football League (NFL) is America’s favorite elite-level sports competition. American Football is massive in the United States, but its grand finale, the Super Bowl, reaches a global audience. The Super Bowl has become a cultural phenomenon, with tens of millions of gridiron fans tuning into broadcasts around the world. Even non-Americans throw Super Bowl parties where they feat on the traditional chicken wings, flock to the best Super Bowl betting sites, and eagerly anticipate the year’s halftime show.
The Super Bowl has attracted some massive audiences over the years, and the games those viewers watched are up there with the most epic of encounters in the NFL’s long and illustrious history. Let’s don our helmets and pads and dive into the five most-watched Super Bowls since records began, exploring the magic of those games and checking out their staggering viewership numbers.
Super Bowl XLIX (2014) – New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Super Bowl XLIX is etched in history as the most-watched Super Bowl ever. An official 114.4 million American viewers tuned in and watched the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks. The game had all the ingredients of an epic encounter, with the Seahawks the defending champions and the Patriots finishing on the losing side three years earlier.
The Patriots trailed by ten points in the fourth quarter, but anything is possible when you have iconic quarterback Tom Brady pulling strings for your team. Brady was instrumental in turning around that ten-point deficit, as the Patriots ran out 28-24 winners, securing the team’s fourth Super Bowl title.
Super Bowl XLVII (2013) – Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos
Some 112.2 million viewers saw the Seattle Seahawks brush aside the Denver Broncos 43-8 at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Seahawks went 13-3 during the regular season, thanks partly to their incredible defense that the media nicknamed “The Legion of Boom.”
The Seahawks’ defensive team continually thwarted the Broncos, who had Peyton Manning calling the shots. The Broncos had a potent offense but could not find a way past the Seahawks, who went into halftime holding a 22-0 lead, as Bruno Mars took to the field for the famous halftime show.
The Broncos did get on the scoresheet during the third quarter, but the Seahawks continued crushing their opponent and were worthy champions. The Seahawks became NFL champions for the first time in their history, but they have not reached the NFL’s biggest stage since.
Super Bowl 50 (2015) – Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers
The Denver Broncos reached their eighth Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2015 regular season, the 50th game of the Super Bowl era. Having lost a one-sided game against the Seattle Seahawks two years previously, the Broncos went into their game against the Carolina Panthers wanting to make amends.
Despite both teams having talented quarterbacks, the defensive teams shone on the night. The Broncos ran out 24-10 victors in what was Peyton Manning’s final game in the NFL. Almost 112 million American football fans tuned in to see Manning’s final swansong. The combination of Manning hanging up his boots and this being the 50th Super Bowl ever made for bumper viewership figures.
Super Bowl XLVI (2011) – New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
Super Bowl XLVI was a rematch of the epic 2007 Super Bowl, where the New York Giants caused an upset by beating the then-undefeated New England Patriots. History repeated itself in front of 111.3 million American television viewers.
Both teams played to the best of their abilities in what was a close-fought encounter. The Patriots, led by Tom Brady, and the Giants, led by Eli Manning, tried to break down the formidable defenses of their rivals.
The Giants soared into a 9-0 lead early into the game before the Patriots scored 17 unanswered points to lead 17-9 in the third quarter. Two consecutive field goals by the Giants cut the lead to two points before an 88-yard drive ended with running back Ahmad Bradshaw scoring the game’s winning touchdown with only 57 seconds remaining on the clock.
Super Bowl XLV (2010) – Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XLV saw two Goliaths of the NFL stand toe-to-toe with one another: the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers were looking for their first Super Bowl win since elite-level quarterback Brett Favre retired, while the Steelers were looking for their third Super Bowl win in six years.
The contest looked one-sided at one stage as the Packers led 21-3 before the Steelers cut the deficit to 21-10 before halftime. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Steelers were clawing their way back and trailed 25-28. However, a 23-yard field goal by the Packers’ Mason Crosby put six points between the teams. The Packers managed to prevent the Steelers from scoring on their final drive and became Super Bowl champions for the fourth time, lifting the trophy in front of 111 million viewers.
These five Super Bowls broke viewership records in the United States and provided some of the most unforgettable moments in NFL history. These cultural events captured the imagination of the fans in the stadium and those yelling at their television screens miles from where the action took place.
The colossal viewership figures reflect the evolution of the NFL and its growing appeal. They showcase the league’s ability to produce high-quality sporting contests and entertainment extravaganzas that appeal to one of the most diverse audiences in sport.
Your next opportunity to witness an NFL Super Bowl for yourself is on February 11, 2024. Super Bowl LVIII takes place at the Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Las Vegas. Although the two teams competing for glory are yet to be decided, you can bet your bottom dollar that the 71,835-capacity stadium will be packed to the rafters, and millions of people worldwide will watch the action unfold on television screens and web broadcasts.