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Super Bowl LVIII Ratings Preview: Highly Intriguing 49ers-Chiefs Matchup Set for Swift Uplift to New All-Time Record?

The story of Super Bowl LVIII features two of football’s best–run franchises right now: the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. A rematch of four years ago when Kansas City emerged victorious back in 2020, by a score of 31-20 and winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 50 years.

Among the key people returning to claim another crown are quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce (more on him later, of course!), and head coach Andy Reid. San Francisco’s coach Kyle Shanahan also returns, but for his sake, hopes to finally accomplish a championship with an improved cast of characters, which now include quarterback Brock Purdy (a.k.a. Mr. Irrelevant – the last overall selection of the 2022 draft) and running back Christian McCaffrey.

The story of Super Bowl LVIII takes place in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada – the Sin City where professional sports leagues had once long considered taboo for being tied to gambling. The recent legalization of gambling in many states of our nation has rendered those past worries moot and have unlocked Las Vegas as a burgeoning sports town.

The story of Super Bowl LVIIII will be broadcast on CBS, the youth–oriented Nickelodeon (hello, SpongeBob SquarePants!) and Spanish outlet Univision. For the first time in 57 years, the Big Game will be televised on another English language network within the United States. Nickelodeon’s alternative telecast – garnering Sports Emmys for its Bears–Saints playoff telecast three years ago – is purposed to attract younger audiences to the NFL product, driving down the median age of the sport amidst an aging linear TV audience.

But as immensely popular as America’s annual premier event already is, this Sunday may reach its apex as the worlds of sports and pop culture intersect: a “love story” of those “new romantics”, Travis Kelce and pop superstar Taylor Swift. The executives at the NFL could not have scripted it better as “if this was a movie.” (Forgive my references to some of her song titles.)

While coverage of Swift and Kelce may have reached the point of exhaustion, it has undeniably heightened all things associated. The hoopla began on Sep. 24 with her in–stadium appearance in Kansas City. The first definitive ratings impact came the following week, Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey when Kansas City visited the Jets. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”, prime time’s No. 1 TV show, still usually is hard-pressed to draw over 20 million viewers for a single game. However on that particular night, nearly 27 million (including streaming) tuned in. An increase of 29 percent in female audience over SNF’s first three weeks of the season. Its total audience a 20 percent improvement from the comparable year–ago Sunday night that had the Chiefs and the Tom Brady–led Buccaneers, a rematch of Super Bowl LV.

The Green Bay Packers’ win over Kansas City on Dec. 3 delivered 25.4 million – the largest week 13 SNF game ever. Most of the 26 million for the late Sunday afternoon window caught the Buffalo Bills’ win in Kansas City on Dec. 10. (which culminated in a livid Mahomes, thanks to an end–of–game penalty that sealed their loss). And, the almost 30 million who watched the Las Vegas Raiders’ upset victory not only topped the Christmas Day marquee slate of games but also became the most–watched Christmas Day NFL game since 1989 (Taylor Swift’s birth year, by the way.)

The three aforementioned examples would have attracted large audiences regardless of Miss Swift’s attendance at those games. They all involved losses by the defending Super Bowl champion. In addition, Nielsen‘s out–of–home tabulations are a major factor in accounting for recent year-to-year ratings increases. Nonetheless, these ratings milestones were still significant achievements and perhaps they might not have reached historic levels without the Swift factor.

That factor might have extended into the postseason. The biggest live streaming audience ever had watched Kansas City’s blowout of Miami in the wild card round. Never before has an NFL Divisional playoff game attracted over 50 million viewers until Kansas City’s win in Buffalo accomplished that. And, Kansas City’s triumph in Baltimore also achieved the largest AFC Championship Game audience on record.

Furthermore, bolstered by Swuft’s success at the Grammys, over 17 million tuned in, a boost of 35 percent from ’23 and, by far, the event’s best post–pandemic viewer figure. Interestingly enough, its top TV market in households: Kansas City, of course, up 58 percent from last year.

Douglas Pucci’s take: Sure, the football fan might feel the game is playing second fiddle to all these outside aspects. But that is the epitome of the Super Bowl. It’s an event for all of America: the football fan, the non-football fan, the TV commercial fan, the Usher fan who highly anticipates his halftime show.

And the Taylor Swift fan.

It is not a stunner that Kansas City made it to its fourth Super Bowl appearance within the span of five years. However, on the field, teams like the Baltimore Ravens, the Buffalo Bills, and the Miami Dolphins once overshadowed the Chiefs during the regular season. But Kansas City prevailed over all three of those teams in the postseason. The NFL and its TV partners can’t help but delight in all the buzz swirling around the star football player and his singing girlfriend which is about to enter the Super Bowl stage.

“22” is another of Taylor Swift’s famous songs. Stick a “1” in front of it and you’ve got my guess for how many millions of viewers will be watching Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday: 122 million, that is.

I inquired with professionals in the media industry to provide their ratings prognostications for Super Bowl LVIII. Here is their analysis — you may also observe their guesses in numerical order:

Marc Berman, Editor-in-Chief of Programming Insider

121.5 million
Unlike entertainment-themed programming, sports continues to flourish on the broadcast networks. The competing teams are prominent. the red-hot Taylor Swift will be there. And there is every reason to predict Super Bowl LVIII will will reach a total viewer high.

Jon Lewis, Sports Media Watch

The matchup is not the most attractive, as it’s too recent to have any novelty and too long ago to really be a ‘rematch’ — but Kansas City remains one of the biggest draws in the sport, and San Francisco is one of the traditional powers. Assuming the game is as close as the oddsmakers expect, I expect another record-setting audience. The addition of Univision and Nickelodeon should be enough to surpass last year, when the only simulcast was on comparably little-watched Fox Deportes. My prediction is 117.5 million.

Jason Yellin, Associate Athletics Director & Strategic Communications Officer at University of Maryland

With a pair of modern dynasty teams with strong national followings, a rematch of a Super Bowl that had 117.6M just four years ago, both playing in exciting conference championship games this year and the Taylor Swift effect, looking at 120M viewers all in, on all platforms.

Steve Kaplowitz, afternoon sports talk radio host at 600 ESPN El Paso (Texas)

119.2 million. This Super Bowl will set a record for most viewers considering the star power and success of both teams.

Ryan Glasspiegel, New York Post sports/entertainment reporter

120 million – The numbers in these playoffs have been off the charts,
and this is about as good a potential matchup as the NFL could get.

Ken Fang, Awful Announcing

CBS has to be very happy with Kansas City and San Francisco in Super Bowl LVIII. With the NFL’s viewership up in 2023-24, this year’s Super Bowl is going to be of great interest. Taylor Swift may or may not be there. Even if she isn’t, CBS is going to get a huge number. I say CBS will average 118.5 million viewers breaking the record of 118 million for Super Bowl LII.

Timothy Burke, President at Burke Communications

119.7 million. I think we break the record, thanks to Taylor Swift + an expanded Spanish language audience on Univision.

Jason Romano, Director of Media and podcast host with Sports Spectrum; former ESPN producer

118.1 million — You’ve got a Super Bowl rematch, 2 teams with great fan bases, and the Taylor Swift angle puts it over the top. It’ll be the most watched Super Bowl of the past decade.

Dan Cohen, Senior Vice President of Octagon Sports and Entertainment Network

122 million, the Swifties will come out for this 2020 rematch which earned 117m.

Rich Greenfield, Media and Technology Analyst at LightShed Partners

120 million: The first ever Taylorbowl is going to further expand the audience for the biggest television event of the year, especially amongst younger viewers who will watch on streaming apps.

Bill Shea, former senior writer at The Athletic

117 million. The NFL has been on a tear this season as America’s most powerful TV property, and while the meatheads may whine about Taylor Swift, her presence at the game would at least offset some eyeball leakage The Big Game(TM)(r)(c) may suffer from being a so-so match-up in terms of teams/storylines. The 49ers are nondescript and the Chiefs are an old story by TV football standards, and this broadcast is mainly for non-fans and commercial fans anyway, so the Swift Factor is a dream from the network and league. If this game sets any audience records, it’ll be thanks to Swift, a good game, and the inclusion of OOH that we didn’t have baked into the data prior to 2020 and is at least a 10% lift atop just linear. (Usual caveats apply about it being a blowout that quickly siphons viewers.)

Dave Bauder, Associated Press

118.3 million. Big numbers for last time KC and SF met in Super Bowl, and they didn’t even have Taylor Swift!

Jon Zaghloul, TV & radio host of “Sports Talk Chicago”

117.4 Million

Two dominant franchises with two dedicated fanbases will make for a competitive game and ratings uptick compared to last year’s Big Game.

Jason Jacobs, Northwest Iowa Campus Radio 103.9 (KUOO) sports announcer

While I think viewers would have preferred a Detroit-Baltimore matchup over seeing the 49ers and KC again, these two franchises do tend to draw viewers. We could hit an all-time high but I’ll lean a little conservative and predict 117.3 million.

Joe Rice, Marketing Professor at Macomb Community College – Clinton Township, MI; former promotion manager at Detroit’s WJBK (Fox-2)
Predicting 117.3 million on all platforms. Why? I’m going with the increased overall numbers in the NFL this year, along with the Kelce Effect (not just Talyor, but all the buzz and endorsements)

Evan Boyd, OptaSTATS researcher

I think many would prefer a different matchup for the Super Bowl, as we recently had a KC-SF matchup. However, Taylor Swift and Usher fans may draw in the most viewers to an American broadcast since the moon landing. I will say 117.6 million.

Phillip Swann, TV Answer Man

120 million. This will be peak NFL! The day historians look back and say pro football was never more popular than on this day. The Chiefs. The 49ers. Taylor Swift. Nick. Paramount streaming. They all combine for the biggest Super Bowl audience ever.

Maury Brown, Forbes

116.3 million.

In a year when viewership for the NFL remains exceptionally strong, the only question is: can fans get burnout on matchups? The Chiefs and Niners met just four years ago in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs have been in three of the last four. Still, the brands and fan interest in the two teams will be high. Just not as high as the first matchup.

Jeff Agrest, Chicago Sun-Times deputy sports editor and media columnist

120 million — Taylor Swift’s attachment to the Super Bowl, even if she’s not there, will add viewers. Swifties will want to see how her beau performs. For football fans, Patrick Mahomes is a must-watch, and the 49ers’ legacy still carries weight in a valuable TV demographic.

Daniel Kaplan, sports business reporter at The Athletic

120 million. Interest in Taylor Swift, the teams, the setting and sports gambling fuels an all time high.

Bob Thompson, Thompson Sports Group LLC, retired President of Fox Sports Networks and BTN co-founder

122.1 million viewers across all outlets/platforms. Why? A good matchup, legalized gambling growth, and Taylor Swift combine to send the Super Bowl on CBS over the 120 million viewer level for the first time.

Lou D’Ermilio, LOUD Communications, former Senior Vice President of Fox Sports media relations

Super Bowl LVIII will be the most-watched Super Bowl ever, exceeding the current record of 118 million viewers by a lot. The matchup between the 49ers and Chiefs gets us to 118 million, and the Swifties will bring total viewership to 125 million!

Michael Fliegelman, WFAN (New York) sports radio producer/host

118.3 million. A record-setting year of viewership for the NFL wraps up with another massive number thanks to Patrick Mahomes and Taylor Swift.

Scott Nolte, Northwest Iowa Y100.1 FM (KUYY) deejay-sports announcer

116.2 million.

I think we will see the same type of numbers as the 2020 game when these same teams met.

David Barron, former Houston Chronicle sports media columnist

121 million. Swifties continue to boost an audience base that produced blockbuster numbers for the conference finals.

Chad Finn, Boston Globe sports media columnist

I’ll go 118.1 million. A tight, compelling game and the Swift Effect make it the most-watched Super Bowl of all time.

Jake Kline, attorney/sports media observer

The NFL is coming off of a spectacular season.  With very little original programming airing this Fall due to the strikes, football was the true savior for the networks.  This postseason likewise has been enormous: the AFC Championship was the most-watched ever and the NFC Championship hit a 12-year high.  In a year where the league’s most prominent TV windows have gone up, it makes sense this pattern will continue for the Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes, the face of the league, is a huge draw—there’s a reason he appears in so many commercials.  Brock Purdy’s story is nothing short of incredible and has been a main topic of conversation around the water cooler.  The Chiefs and the 49ers are two extremely recognizable brands.

Nielsen’s inclusion of out-of-home (OOH) viewing, still a relatively new concept, again will provide a boost (worth noting: OOH will become even more prominent in 2025 when it expands to include more markets—sporting events will be a massive beneficiary of that).  People are also getting increasingly accustomed to streaming live sports—case in point: other than for the teams’ respective home markets, a playoff game this year was shown exclusively on a streamer.

There’s been a lot of back-and-forth between sports media pundits these last several months over whether the ‘Taylor Swift effect’ is impacting ratings.  Put me firmly in the category that Swift is moving the needle.  Taylor and Travis have redefined what it means to be a power couple; they, Jason, and Mama Kelce have in essence become America’s ‘first family’.  The Super Bowl draws the casual audience in, those who care about more than just the final score—this year’s game features the ultimate story in pop culture.  The Swifties will show up and in large numbers to see how this chapter of the Love Story will unfold.

Across all domestic legal platforms: 119M.

As for the game itself, I predict the Chiefs will become the first team since the Patriots 19 years ago to hoist back-to-back Lombardi Trophies.  The discourse over whether Brock Purdy is the second coming of Brady/Montana or a ‘system quarterback’ will provide plenty of fodder for debate shows during the offseason, in between their hot takes about the Cowboys and Aaron Rodgers’s comeback.

Jay Posner, former sports editor of San Diego Union-Tribune

In their Wildest Dreams CBS was hoping for something like this all-Red matchup and now that it’s here the result will be a record audience (at least under the current measuring system). 121.2 million.

Lori Rubinson, WFAN sports radio talk show host

I’m predicting 128.7 million viewers across all platforms. I know it seems high but here’s my logic: I’m starting with the KC/San Francisco match up of 2020 as my base (117.6) and then give it a 10% bump due to NFL viewership being up and the Taylor Swift effect.

Andrew Marchand, sports media columnist for The Athletic

119 million. It is a great matchup plus I do think Taylor Swift gives it a bump so a huge number for CBS.

Richard Deitsch, sports media columnist at The Athletic and host of the Sports Media podcast

116.3 million. The OOH Gods have spoken: This will set a new record.

Jimmy Traina, writer at Sports Illustrated and host of SI Media Podcast

I’m gonna go with 118.4 million viewers.

Terence Henderson, T Dog Media

Since the NFL’s been on a hot ratings streak this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Super Bowl viewership ratings rise from last year. Oh, and the Taylor Swift factor doesn’t hurt either. I predict 117.8 million, just short of the record.

Jason Clinkscales, NYC-based media analyst/editor/writer, regular contributor for Awful Announcing and Decider, former media research analyst

118.5 million – It seems as if people forget how big of a following the 49ers have had over the last four decades, as evidenced by how big of an audience their last two Super Bowl appearances carried against teams with previously lower national profiles. Super Bowls don’t often take ratings dips with dynastic teams like Kansas City and this one likely won’t with the impressive OOH-aided numbers of this postseason. A 3% lift from last year’s game is certainly possible.

Dan Serafin, News 12 The Bronx/Brooklyn news & sports anchor

Looks to be a good recipe for a highly watched game, even by Super Bowl standards. I’m thinking we get a very similiar number to last year, maybe a little more even, 115 million viewers!

Paul Rosenberg, WFAN (New York) sports radio producer/host

150 million. The various ways you can watch the big game will be a big factor, in addition to the Taylor Swift/Travis Kelce relationship playing a big role. Lots of eyes will be on this game due to that. From a football perspective, it’s a slam dunk. The 2 best players in the league might be on the field as well, in Patrick Mahomes and Christian McCaffrey.

Michael McCarthy, Senior Writer at Front Office Sports

Welcome to a new record for the Taylor Swift Bowl. CBS pulls record 118M viewers.

Frank Isola, ESPN/SiriusXM NBA Radio host/Nets studio analyst for YES Network

118 million. Best player in the sport along with one of the biggest stars in the world is a lethal combination

Patrick Crakes, Crakes Media Consulting, former Senior Vice President of Fox Sports Senior Vice President Programming in Research & Content Strategy

There’s a lot of uncontrollable and unpredictable elements that go into making a guess about final viewing for a mega event like the Super Bowl. That’s why it’s very different than estimating sales and planning figures where you’re attempting to piece together historical delivery while managing risk – which, for the record, is absolutely not what we’re doing here!

So, with that qualification stated and making assumptions about game competitiveness and quality, I’ll stab in the mist at 119.7M viewers for Super Bowl 58.

It’s long important to remember that the Super Bowl is the most general market media event in America and that means some phenomena that drove awareness and media attention during the regular season (but not viewing, sorry pundits!) will have an impact here (Hey there Taylor!).

The result will be upside to engagement from typically less interested demographics resulting in some incremental viewing growth at the margin.

Some other upside factors include match-up quality (very high), star players (all over the field), multiple great story lines (possible back to back Super Bowl wins, Mr. Irrelevant in the big game, pop star fashion choices, etc…), and increased gaming interest.

Taken together, I expect the multiple positive general market interest factors to help drive strong initial tune-in at Kick Off (an important factor to any level of ratings growth) and then maintain that base as viewing usage build through the evening.

I also expect the halftime show to be helped by the aforementioned cultural icon’s dating preferences as the viewers she helps draws to the game will most assuredly be very engaged during Usher’s performance.

Of course, the biggest factor driving viewing will be continued upside from Out of Home viewing (the real ratings hero of the 2023/24 NFL season) along with some solid lift from the game being on Univision vs. last year’s Spanish language platform.

With all that in the game’s favor, it’s reasonable to ask why I don’t see this year’s edition surpassing 120M viewers.

Holding back my enthusiasm for this year’s viewing intangibles is simple Super Bowl intrinsic behavior which reveals that in the last 12 years no Super Bowl has ever grown or declined more than +/-5M viewers year over year (the COVID measurement impacted 2021’s version the exception). That fact suggests a leap above 120M viewers is a long shot for a program that behaves reasonable well within long term statistical trends.

Pat Boyle, WFAN & CBS Sports Radio producer/host and sports play-by-play announcer for Rutgers, Villanova and LIU

113.4 Million – these two teams generated 117.6 million last time they squared off, but I feel like there will be a slight drop off in viewership from that, and from last year as well.

Danielle McCartan, New York’s WFAN sports radio talk show host

I’ll go 125 million. The world’s biggest game with a global superstar in attendance will smash viewership records.

To recap, here are the predictions in sorted order (you may click on their name for their respective analyses)

Name Viewers
(in millions)
Paul Rosenberg 150.0
Lori Rubinson 128.7
Lou D’Ermilio 125.0
Danielle mcCartan 125.0
Bob Thompson 122.1
Dan Cohen 122.0
Douglas Pucci 122.0
Marc Berman 121.5
Jay Posner 121.2
David Barron 121.0
Jason Yellin 120.0
Ryan Glasspiegel 120.0
Rich Greenfield 120.0
Phillip Swann 120.0
Jeff Agrest 120.0
Daniel Kaplan 120.0
Timothy Burke 119.7
Patrick Crakes 119.7
Steve Kaplowitz 119.6
Jake Kline 119.0
Andrew Marchand 119.0
Ken Fang 118.5
Jason Clinkscales 118.5
Jimmy Traina 118.4
Dave Bauder 118.3
Michael Fliegelman 118.3
Jason Romano 118.1
Chad Finn 118.1
Michael McCarthy 118.0
Frank Isola 118.0
Terence Henderson 117.8
Evan Boyd 117.6
Jon Lewis 117.5
Jon Zaghloul 117.4
Jason Jacobs 117.3
Joe Rice 117.3
Bill Shea 117.0
Maury Brown 116.3
Richard Deitsch 116.3
Scott Nolte 116.2
Dan Serafin 115.0
Pat Boyle 113.4