Fox Sports reported a unusually strong overnight household ratings for "Super Bowl LI" Monday morning, suggesting the viewer erosion that dragged down the NFL's numbers all year ended with the regular season.
The matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons scored a 48.8 rating/72 share, according to the 56 metered markets monitored by Nielsen, which should place it among the most-watched Super Bowls in history, and make it one of the highest-rated big games ever aired on Fox.
Still tops in the overnights among all Super Bowl telecasts, however, was "Super Bowl XLIX" on NBC in 2015, which drew a 49.7 rating/72 share. That translated into a record 114.44 million viewers. Second was "Super Bowl 50" on CBS in 2016, with a 49.0 rating/72 share, which resulted in 111.86 million viewers.
The next-highest Super Bowl ever to air on Fox was the Seattle Seahawk's win over the Denver Broncos in 2014, which a 46.7 rating/70 share. Last year's Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers matchup was the most-watched globally at 167 million viewers.
Considering the widely reported audience erosion for the NFL in the regular season (16.7 million viewers on average per game, according to Nielsen, was a loss of 7 percent from last season) the positive results for "Super Bowl LI" represents a sigh of relief for the league.
For a point of reference, here is the most recent 10-year tracking over the Super Bowl:
Metered Market Rating/Share, Total Audience
2/03/08 (NBC): 42.1 rating/.65 share, 97.45 million
2/01/09 (NBC): 42.1 rating/65 share, 98.74 million
2/07/10 (CBS): 46.4 rating/68 share, 106/48 million
2/06/11 (Fox): 47.9 rating/71 share, 111.04 million
2/05/12 (NBC): 47.8 rating/71 share, 111.35 million
2/03/13 (CBS): 48.1 rating/71 share, 108.89 million
2/02/14 (Fox): 47.6 rating/70 share, 112.19 million
2/01/15 (NBC): 49.7 rating/72 share, 114.42 million
2/07/16 (CBS): 49.0 rating/72 share, 111.86 million
National results for last night's game, featuring Lady Gaga performing in the half-time show, are expected to show between 100 and 110 million viewers.
The series premiere of reboot "24: Legacy," which was heavily promoted during the game, lead out of "Super Bowl LI" with an estimated–and disappointing—10.7 household rating in the 11 p.m. hour. Last year, a considerably higher 26.4 rating for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" translated into a record 20.55 million viewers for the late night talker. But the ample extra tune-in had no impact on the ratings for the regularly scheduled weeknight edition.
"24: Legacy" debuts in its regularly scheduled Monday 8 p.m. time period this evening.