Infographic Category Entertainment

The Most Watched Television Events in History

By | source: Feb 15th, 2024

What are the most watched television events in history? While the moon landing is the clear leader, the Super Bowl is trending towards dethroning it over the next decade.

The Moon Landing: A Giant Leap for Viewership

When Neil Armstrong took that one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind in 1969, an estimated 125-150 million viewers were glued to their television sets, making the Apollo 11 moon landing the most watched broadcast in U.S. history. It was a momentous event that transcended entertainment, capturing the collective imagination of an entire nation.

Super Bowl: The Reigning Champion of Annual Broadcasts

For decades, the Super Bowl has undoubtedly been a consistent ratings powerhouse. Let’s delve into the top viewed Super Bowls. Clocking the highest viewership, Super Bowl LVII in 2023, was watched by an astounding 115.1 million viewers. Not far behind, the 2015 Super Bowl XLIX and the 2014 Super Bowl LVI garnered 114.4 million and 112.3 million viewers, respectively. Lastly, Super Bowl 50, held in 2016, drew an audience of 111.9 million. The Super Bowl isn’t just a football match; it’s an annual cultural event that commands a massive audience.

Non-Super Bowl Broadcasts That Made Waves

While the Super Bowl often dominates, there have been other significant broadcasts in history that have drawn vast audiences. Richard Nixon’s resignation speech, for instance, captivated 110 million viewers, marking a pivotal moment in American politics.

The finale of the iconic television series M*A*S*H in 1983 proved to be a television event like no other, attracting 105.9 million viewers. The popularity of this show was a testament to its powerful storytelling and unforgettable characters.

“Roots” and “The Day After,” each watched by 100 million viewers, showcased the power of television to explore challenging and consequential themes. “Roots” opened up important conversations about America’s racial history, while “The Day After” gave viewers a harrowing glimpse into the potential horrors of nuclear war.

When Real Life Out-Viewed Fiction

Reality often outperforms fiction when it comes to capturing public attention. Case in point: the 1994 police pursuit of O.J. Simpson. This real-life drama drew a staggering 95 million viewers, underscoring the public’s fascination with high-profile legal cases.

These landmark broadcasts offer a fascinating glimpse into America’s shared viewing experiences over the years. They demonstrate how, in times of significant historical, cultural, or personal events, we turn to our television sets for information, entertainment, and a shared sense of community.

Will Super Bowl LVIII Top the List?

There has been some speculation that Super Bowl LVIII, aided by the presence of Taylor Swift, may top the list. This years Super Bowl broadcast would have to take a large step ahead of it’s previous trajectory to become the all time most watched television broadcast in the United States. If it doesn’t happen this year, it seems like it is only a matter of time before a Super Bowl eventually tops the list.