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Super Bowl: Is it Really Still Super?

Categories: ',TV Business

Written By

January 21st, 2008

Super Bowl XLIIIt's interesting, when I look at the actual data, I wind up in a different spot than Mr. Gorman. Rather than going back and forth with Bill in a comments duel, I'll just offer up a differing opinion and include a data table for the last 20 years.

Very quickly I get to this place: throw out any kind of thinking that involves "it just seems logical that...". Because whatever that logic is, it doesn't matter. The Super Bowl transcends logic when St. Louis vs. Tennessee has more viewers than a Super Bowl featuring the New York football Giants.

Further, I don't get as gushy over the strength and power of the Super Bowl or praise it's consistently increasing viewership. Make no mistake, the Super Bowl is an event. It's still a ratings beast. In fact, there's nothing beastlier out there to compete with it. That said, the NFL has not reached new record-high viewership since a January 1996 match-up featuring the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers generated just over 94 million viewers.

Super Bowl Date Network rating $/30 Sec Ad # Homes (000) Persons 2+ (000) NFC AFC
XLII Feb 3 2008* FOX 43.1 NA 48,665 97,448 New York Giants New England
XLI Feb 4 2007 * CBS 42.6 $2,385,365 47,505 93,184 Chicago Indianapolis
XL Feb 5 2006 * ABC 41.6 $2,500,000 45,867 90,745 Seattle Pittsburgh
XXXIX Feb 6 2005 FOX 41.1 $2,400,000 45,081 86,072 Philadelphia New England
XXXVIII Feb 1 2004 CBS 41.4 $2,302,200 44,908 89,795 Carolina New England
XXXVII Jan 26 2003 ABC 40.7 $2,200,000 43,433 88,637 Tampa Bay Oakland
XXXVI Feb 3 2002 FOX 40.4 $2,200,000 42,664 86,801 St. Louis New England
XXXV Jan 28 2001 CBS 40.4 $2,200,000 41,270 84,335 NY Giants Baltimore
XXXIV Jan 30 2000 ABC 43.3 $2,100,000 43,618 88,465 St. Louis Tennessee
XXXIII Jan 31 1999 FOX 40.2 $1,600,000 39,992 83,720 Atlanta Denver
XXXII Jan 25 1998 NBC 44.5 $1,291,100 43,630 90,000 Green Bay Denver
XXXI Jan 26 1997 FOX 43.3 $1,200,000 42,000 87,870 Green Bay New England
XXX Jan 28 1996 NBC 46.0 $1,085,000 44,145 94,080 Dallas Pittsburgh
XXIX Jan 29 1995 ABC 41.3 $1,150,000 39,400 83,420 San Francisco San Diego
XXVIII Jan 30 1994 NBC 45.5 $900,000 42,860 90,000 Dallas Buffalo
XXVII Jan 31 1993 NBC 45.1 $850,000 41,990 90,990 Dallas Buffalo
XXVI Jan 26 1992 CBS 40.3 $850,000 37,120 79,590 Washington Buffalo
XXV Jan 27 1991 ABC 41.9 $800,000 39,010 79,510 NY Giants Buffalo
XXIV Jan 28 1990 CBS 39.0 $700,400 35,920 73,852 San Francisco Denver
XXIII Jan 22 1989 NBC 43.5 $675,000 39,320 81,590 San Francisco Cincinnati
XXII Jan 31 1988 ABC 41.9 $645,000 37,120 80,140 Washington Denver
XXI Jan 25 1987 CBS 45.8 $600,000 40,030 87,190 NY Giants Denver

What's notable about the Super Bowl - and this is extremely notable - is that it's the only TV franchise with a chance at actually breaking a 10+ year old record. It's not going out on a limb to predict this will happen. But the Patriots are not just chasing the Giants, they're chasing history, so it's a special occasion. Without the historic quest, let's say the exact same Super Bowl but with a 16-2 New England Patriots - I'd almost give it no chance at all of breaking the 1996 record.

But with Golden Boy Tom Brady and the villainous Bill Belechick in pursuit of 19-0, it's easy to predict record-high viewership for this year's Super Bowl. For the NFL, these are the good old days. Unless the Patriots are again 18-0 at this time next year, you can also mark me down now for a noticeable decrease in TV ratings for the Super Bowl that airs in January 2009.

Verdict: The Super Bowl is definitely still super, but outside of questing for perfection, its best days seem behind it.

Nielsen Ratings Data: ©2008 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 
  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Now that I look at it with the networks included, the broadcast network may have a very large influence on the ratings.

    In the last 11 years, the 4 Super Bowls that Fox broadcast are in the bottom 5 for viewership.

    I'm ready to call that cause and effect.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Wow, that is a GREAT catch. I may want to revise my 100 million prediction. In the meanwhile I'll google terms like:

    Nielsen Fox Murdoch Super Bowl Ratings conspiracy.

    Kidding! ;) I think…

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Now that I look at it with the networks included, the broadcast network may have a very large influence on the ratings.

    In the last 11 years, the 4 Super Bowls that Fox broadcast are in the bottom 5 for viewership.

    I’m ready to call that cause and effect.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Wow, that is a GREAT catch. I may want to revise my 100 million prediction. In the meanwhile I’ll google terms like:

    Nielsen Fox Murdoch Super Bowl Ratings conspiracy.

    Kidding! ;) I think…

  • http://yahoo.com Eva G.

    Go patriots! I could care less about east coast teams, but I have to admit a monopoly-type dynasty that gets caught for cheating the game, with no consequences is pretty grossly admirable, and dare I say, American? Hell they are the Patriots:-)

  • http://yahoo.com Eva G.

    Go patriots! I could care less about east coast teams, but I have to admit a monopoly-type dynasty that gets caught for cheating the game, with no consequences is pretty grossly admirable, and dare I say, American? Hell they are the Patriots:-)

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