Fox was hoping the matchup of two top teams in the Super Bowl and a close game would lead to a record night.
Even though Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles came down to a field goal with 8 seconds remaining, Fox fell just short of its goal.
The Chiefs' rally to defeat the Eagles 38-35 is on pace to become the third most-watched television show in history, with an estimated 113 million people watching, according to preliminary numbers released Monday.
Fox said the audience estimate includes the broadcasts on Fox and Fox Deportes as well as streaming on Fox and the NFL's digital sites. The figures are via Nielsen's Fast National data and Adobe Analytics.
The 2015 game between New England and Seattle on NBC holds the record at 114,442,000 viewers (not including streaming), followed by Super Bowl 51 in 2017 on Fox between Atlanta and New England (113,668,000).
This was Fox's 10th Super Bowl since it began airing NFL games in 1994 and the second most-watched program in Fox Sports history.
It would also be a slight increase over the 112.3 million average for last year's Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Rams' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was broadcast by NBC and Telemundo and streamed on Peacock and NFL digital sites.
According to Adobe Analytics, this year's digital feed averaged a Super Bowl-record 7 million streams, an 18% increase over last year (6 million) and more than double Fox's last Super Bowl in 2020 (3.4 million).
It was the third straight year the streaming average has surpassed 5 million. The first Super Bowl to be streamed, in 2012, averaged 346,000.
Rihanna's halftime show averaged 118.7 million viewers, making it the second-most watched in Super Bowl history. Katy Perry's 2015 performance holds the top mark at 121 million.
The Spanish-language audience average for the game was 951,000, a record for the most-watched Super Bowl game in Spanish-language cable television history. It was also the most watched non-soccer event in Spanish-language cable history.
The Spanish-language number is down from last year's record of 1.9 million on Telemundo, which unlike Fox Deportes has broadcast affiliates in 90 markets.
The Super Bowl has been televised in Spanish in the United States since 2014.
Final Nielsen data will be available on Tuesday, including the English-language television-only figures. After Super Bowls averaged over 100 million viewers from 2010-18, four of the five games before this year had fallen short of that number because of cord-cutting. That included 95.2 million for the 2021 Super Bowl between Tampa Bay and Kansas City, which was the game's lowest TV-only average since 2007.
If Sunday's number can better the 99.18 million from last year, it would mark the first time since 2015 there had been two straight years of increases.
Unsurprisingly, Kansas City and Philadelphia were the two highest-ranked markets. Kansas City led the way with a 52.0 rating and 87 share followed by Philadelphia’s 46.3/77.
The rating is the percentage of television households tuned in. The share refers to a percentage of the TV-watching audience viewing a particular program at the time.
Cincinnati, which lost to the Chiefs in the AFC championship game, and Minneapolis also recorded 77 shares.
The flood of ads during what is easily television’s most-watched event of the year was heavy on celebrities — Ben Affleck, Ozzy Osbourne, Matt Damon, Maya Rudolph, Martha Stewart and “Breaking Bad” cast members.
Steve Williamson, senior vice president of the market research firm GWI. said surveys show that trust in brands is down this year and companies were looking for well-known names for a boost.
“There wasn’t a primary brand that took over the Super Bowl,” he said. “There were all sorts of brands from alcohol to gambling to Jesus.”
Fox also said 15.5 million people watched the season premiere of Gordon Ramsay's competition show “Next Level Chef” following the game. The spot after the Super Bowl is usually the most-coveted time slot on television.