Sunday's Super Bowl attracted 99.9 million viewers, marking the first growth since 2015

As audiences continue to move away from traditional TV, the 54th Super Bowl was a standout.
Image: Fans watch the San Francisco 49ers play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in San Francisco on Feb. 2, 2020.
Fans in San Francisco watch the San Francisco 49ers play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54 on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020.Philip Pacheco / Getty Images

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By Claire Atkinson

Although conventional television continues to lose viewers, Super Bowl 54 attracted 99.9 million viewers Sunday on Fox, easily topping last year's 98.5 million viewers and marking the first growth since 2015, according to early numbers from Nielsen, the media measurement company.

The game included a dramatic fourth-quarter finish in which the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20, and featured a racy halftime show by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez that drew considerable attention.

While the Super Bowl's popularity has been on the decline for the past few years, audiences for the regular NFL season have risen the past two years, gaining 5 percent this season. The Super Bowl is attracting more viewers now than it was 20 years ago; in 2000, the game attracted 88.4 million viewers, when the St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans.

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Digital viewing is also boosting numbers. The NFL retweeted a Fox tweet that said the game's total audience, as measured by Nielsen, was 102 million viewers, including Fox, Spanish language channel Fox Deportes and three digital platforms (Fox, NFL and Verizon).

"It's a very positive story for our clients to see linear [traditional TV] measurement growth," said sports advertising expert Jeremy Carey, managing director of Optimum Sports. "Those who invested in the game should be very pleased."

This year, a 30-second commercial cost around $5.6 million, which Carey said could be viewed as good value in part because of all the attention the NFL generates across the media. Carey said demand for advertising was the highest he has seen in some years.

However, Carey noted that core demographic audiences were slightly down in the 18-49 and 25-54 age groups.

CORRECTION (Feb. 3, 2020 6:40 p.m. ET): The headline on an earlier version of this article misstated the last time the Super Bowl recorded an increase in TV viewers before this year. It was 2015, not 2016.