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Is the Super Bowl Watched More Than Other Televised Events?

By Jennifer Hassan in Super Bowl
| January 22, 2020 8:35 am PDT
Football Player Holding Lightning Charged Football, Tennis Match and Soccer Ball Being Kicked

Super Bowl Sunday has become a national holiday in the United States. This event even brings together those who are not typically fans of American football and encourages them to set aside all other duties that day to stay glued to the screen.

In addition to the sport, there is a glamorous, top-name musical halftime show that’s marketed as heavily as the game itself.

We knew that J.Lo and Shakira were performing at Super Bowl 2020 long before anyone knew what teams would be competing. People still talk about Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance and even remember Michael Jackson’s halftime show entrance from decades ago.

And if sports and music don’t excite you, there are iconic brands creating expensive Super Bowl commercials that try their best, year after year, to be memorable (and to justify their $5 million for 30 seconds time slot).

Thus, sports fans, music lovers, and pop culture aficionados all gather around the television on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the game. It should be no surprise, then, that more than 110 people watch the Super Bowl each year.

Let’s take a look at how Super Bowl viewership compares to other events.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. Wimbledon Viewers

Arguably the most famous of all the tennis “grand slam” championships, Wimbledon is watched by tennis fans the world over.

The BBC reports that when Djokovic played Federer in what became a nearly-five-hour game, a viewership of nearly 10 million people was recorded. This was the highest-ever audience for a Wimbledon match.

However popular Wimbledon is, the viewership is less than 10% of the NFL’s championship game.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. Cricket World Cup Viewers

Cricket is a sport not often seen in the US, but it generates a great deal of multi-generational fanaticism in other parts of the world.

Unlike the Super Bowl, or Wimbledon, which happen annually, the Cricket World Cup occurs every four years and consists of ten teams (this format has changed, but it stands currently at ten teams) playing each other to jockey for ranking before proceeding to the semifinals.

Wikipedia estimates that more than 2 billion people watch the Cricket World Cup.

Because the viewers for this tournament are spread out amongst games, it does not give us a proper metric to measure it against the Super Bowl.

Thus, let us point out that the most-watched match of the Cricket World Cup only had one billion viewers. This match was between political rivals and dominant cricket teams India and Pakistan and is always a highlight of the World Cup calendar if and when these teams meet in the finals.

Thus, the Super Bowl viewership is only 10% of one match of the World Cricket Cup. But remember, American football isn’t played in very many places, whereas cricket has a global following.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. FIFA World Cup Viewers

According to FIFA, the soccer world’s governing body, more than three billion people watch the World Cup. However, this championship event is spread out over many teams and several weeks.

The viewership for one game in the FIFA World Cup was reportedly more than one billion, and that was for the final match between Croatia and France in 2018.

So far, cricket and soccer hold the top spots for reported sports viewership for any one match or game.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. MLB World Series Viewers

Major League Baseball’s annual championship is called the World Series, even though all of the MLB teams are only from either the United States or Canada, which is only two of the 195 countries in the world. Therefore, about 0.01 of the countries in the world take part in the World Series.

But it’s a catchy name. MUCH better than the “Zero Point Zero One Percent Series.”

According to Nielsen ratings, the World Series match with the highest viewership occurred in 1980, in a game between the Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Phillies. The viewership is reported to be in the “ballpark” (you’re welcome) of around 45 million.

Baseball was once called America’s Game, but it has been overtaken in popularity by professional football. Compare MLB’s viewership peak of 45 million fans nearly 40 years ago versus the Super Bowl’s 110 million-plus from Super Bowl LIII.

So, baseball is half of football, and football is one-tenth of cricket or soccer.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. NHL’s Stanley Cup Viewers

The Stanley Cup is the name of the annual championship game and trophy of the National Hockey League. This trophy has been around for more than 100 years and was named after Lord Stanley Preston, an avid hockey enthusiast, proud “hockey dad,” and also the Governor-General of Canada.

There are 31 professional hockey teams in the US and Canada that make up the NHL, and 16 teams make it to the playoffs. Like the NFL post-season, the highest-ranking teams go to the knockout rounds, as well as a number of wild cards.

Eventually, the two highest-ranking teams face each other in front of a viewership of nearly five million people, as reported in 2019.

Less than Wimbledon.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. Olympics Viewers

It is estimated that more than 3.5 billion people watched the Summer Olympics in 2012. But the Olympics consists of 33 sports played over more than two weeks, and so that number becomes quite spread over events, with some people only tuning in for opening and closing ceremonies.

Reuters reports that one billion people watched the opening ceremonies in Beijing in 2008. Forbes reports that nearly 40 million Americans watched the gymnastics events.

At one billion people tuning in for the opening spectacular, the Olympics opening ceremony is on par with a cricket or soccer championship match.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. US Presidential Election Viewers

People around the world watch the United States presidential election results.

According to Nielsen, 71 million people tuned into the elections. However, all of the networks listed on the Nielsen site are American stations; thus, it is likely that this number represents domestic viewers only.

Given that there are more than 330 million people living in the US, the fact that only about 22% of them (us) watched on election night is rather mind-boggling. I was glued to the set. Glued! But I digress.

If we account for the people around the world who also tuned in, but for whom there are no gathered viewership statistics, we can, generously, double that number to bring us to a possible 142 million viewers worldwide.

Beats tennis and maybe even the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Viewers vs. Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Viewers

This famous lingerie and casual wear extravaganza at one time attracted viewers in the millions, but not quite as many as Wimbledon. According to numbers reported from ABC, there were five million people who watched the beauty-fest in 2017, a number which dropped to just over three million in 2018.

The rapid loss of viewership could be because the show failed to keep up with rapidly evolving modern sensibilities. For instance, transsexuals were not allowed to model in the show because it would apparently botch the fantasy.

Whatever the reason, because of the drop in numbers, it appears that this show will no longer be an annually televised event. So, viewership has come to zero.

An Important Note in Closing

That’s how Super Bowl viewership compares to other events. Although I have given viewer statistics for a number of sports and other events, it’s critical to note, for accuracy’s sake, that I have not included viewership numbers for the annual World Tiddlywinks Championship, held in Cambridge.

The reason I have not included these numbers it not to make football fans feel bad, in case the tiddlywinks numbers are higher. It is simply that the tiddlywinks viewership statistics are not available.

I find this surprising, since the International Federation of Tiddlywinks Associations (IFTwA) keeps meticulous records of other statistics.

Likewise, I do not have precise numbers for the televised Wife Carrying World Championships that take place in Finland. Nor do I have up-to-the-minute data on another popular Finnish sport: boot throwing.

Therefore, one must take the seemingly impressive numbers regarding the Super Bowl, Wimbledon, the Olympics, etc., with a grain of salt, since they may be exceeded by fans of these other pursuits.

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