A snoozer of a game meant a predictable ratings hit for Super Bowl LIII, but CBS’s entertainment division still got what it wanted most on Sunday night: strong sampling for the new variety-reality show The World’s Best.
Per preliminary national Nielsen data, the James Corden–hosted talent show was seen by an average audience of 22.2 million viewers. While that’s down from what NBC got last year with a post-game telecast of existing hit This Is Us, it’s a big improvement from the last post-Super Bowl series premiere (24: Legacy, which averaged 17.6 million viewers in 2017) and a smaller one from CBS’s last two Super Bowl Sunday entertainment efforts (20.6 million for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in 2016; 20.8 million for Elementary in 2013). It helped that The World’s Best was able to air early by recent post-Super Bowl standards: The show was on-air by 10:40 p.m. EST, about 15 minutes earlier than Colbert began and much sooner than Elementary, which didn’t start until 11:15 p.m.
The glass-half-empty view of these numbers is that World’s Best didn’t yield numbers anywhere close to those of other recent unscripted shows that have followed the Super Bowl. In 2009, CBS’s own Undercover Boss scored a massive 38.7 million viewers for its post-game series premiere, while in 2012, a season premiere of NBC’s The Voice notched 37.6 million. Those two shows, however, benefited greatly from starting nearly half an hour earlier, as well as by much bigger lead-ins from the Super Bowl itself. What’s more, post-game viewing options are much greater these days, thanks to the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The number for The World’s Best isn’t a jaw-dropper, but it’s anything but a disaster. CBS exposed one of their big new reality efforts to a massive audience, giving it a big head start ahead of its first broadcast in its regular time slot on Wednesday. Similarly, a post-game edition of The Late Show didn’t break any records, but it was still seen by 5.5 million viewers, the third-best-ever number for the show and almost double its normal audience. There’s no reason for CBS Entertainment execs to be crying today.
As for the big game itself, CBS Sports has yet to release national data as of early Monday afternoon. However, preliminary Nielsen numbers from big cities indicate those final numbers will be, unsurprisingly, down from recent years. In the overnights, Super Bowl LIII notched a 44.9 rating, the lowest by this metric since 2009 (42.1) and well below that of last year’s game (47.4 rating.) Even with a boost from streaming viewers — numbers which don’t get counted until the final ratings are in— it seems unlikely that the Rams-Patriots game will match last year’s overall audience of 103.4 million viewers. We’ll update this post with national Nielsen numbers when they’re released.
Update: Per CBS Sports, Sunday’s game averaged a total of 100.7 million viewers on TV and streaming platforms, the smallest audience since 2009 (98.7 million). Counting only TV viewers, Ad Age’s Anthony Crupi reports the game averaged 98.2 million viewers, the lowest since 2008.