The show that airs after the Super Bowl each year gets a big audience — in many cases the biggest one that particular show will ever see. That’s a big deal.
It’s also true, however, that shows usually return to their typical ratings within a week or two of the post-Super Bowl episode. By and large over the last decade or so, the hope of a Super Bowl halo extending beyond the post-game episode didn’t meet with the facts.
Only three of the past 11 post-game shows have seen any meaningful long-term ratings gain. The Super Bowl audience may be huge, but it’s also fleeting — what network programmers refer to as a “rented audience.” TV pretty much returns to normal the next day.
TV by the Numbers crunched the pre- and post-Super Bowl ratings for each of the last 11 Super Bowl lead-outs. We’ll soon know how “24: Legacy” performs after Super Bowl LI. In the meantime, here’s a look at the ratings halos (or lack thereof) for shows that followed the Super Bowl since 2006, starting with the biggest beneficiary of them all.
2006: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (ABC)
Pre-Super Bowl season average in adults 18-49: 8.45
Super Bowl episode: 16.5
Halo: Massive. “Grey’s” is the gold standard of Super Bowl boosts in recent memory. The show was already a hit in its second season, but it moved into the stratosphere following “It’s the End of the World,” the bomb-in-a-body-cavity episode that aired after Super Bowl XL.
The three episodes immediately after the Super Bowl episode averaged a 10.9* in adults 18-49. That’s a 29 percent gain over the show’s prior Season 2 average. Here’s the really remarkable stat, however: 35 of the next 37 episodes — a run stretching all the way to the Season 4 premiere — came in above the show’s pre-Super Bowl average. Of the two that didn’t, one virtually tied it (an 8.4 on May 10, 2007), and one aired on Thanksgiving 2006 (7.6).
(*Side note: Man, things sure have changed in the past decade.)
2007: ‘Criminal Minds’ (CBS)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: 4.5
Super Bowl episode: 9.9
Halo: Short-lived. The CBS crime drama’s next episode tied a season high with a 5.1, but the next three airings all came in at 4.0 opposite “American Idol’s” juggernaut. To be fair, the lone pre-Super Bowl episode of “Criminal Minds” that faced “Idol” managed just a 3.3, so the exposure of the game probably did help a little.
2008: ‘House’ (FOX)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: 7.4
Super Bowl episode: 12.9
Halo: Lost to outside forces. The next episode drew a 9.0 in adults 18-49, a season high for a regular episode. It was the last one made before the 2008 writers’ strike shut production down. “House” didn’t return until April 28 of that year.
2009: ‘The Office’ (NBC)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: 4.5
Super Bowl episode: 11.0
Halo: Non-existent. The next two episodes of the show averaged a 4.45 rating, in line with the pre-Super Bowl average. The show stayed in the high 3s and low 4s for most of the rest of the season.
2010: ‘Undercover Boss’ series premiere (CBS)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: N/A
Super Bowl episode: 16.2
Halo: Sizable. “Undercover Boss” had the best 18-49 rating of a Super Bowl lead-out since “Grey’s” (and a slightly bigger total audience), and it sustained solid ratings into its second season. The eight Season 1 episodes after the premiere averaged a 4.5, and it didn’t dip below 3.0 until the sixth episode of Season 2.
2011: ‘Glee’ (FOX)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: 4.8
Super Bowl episode: 11.1
Halo: Non-existent. The next three episodes of the show averaged 4.4 in the demo, and the back end of “Glee’s” second season tailed off some more.
2012: ‘The Voice’ Season 2 premiere (NBC)
Season 1 average (April-June 2011): 4.5
Super Bowl episode: 16.3
Halo: Pretty big. “The Voice” didn’t record a rating below the Season 1 average until early April, when the ninth episode scored a 4.1. It probably helped that NBC only aired a single weekly episode until that time.
2013: ‘Elementary’ (CBS)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: 2.4
Super Bowl episode: 7.8
Halo: Non-existent. Airing after the 49ers-Ravens blackout Super Bowl, “Elementary” didn’t start until after 11 p.m. ET and subsequently recorded the lowest Super Bowl lead-out numbers in a decade.Subsequent episodes had same-day ratings on par with the season average. “Elementary” was a big DVR show from the outset of its inaugural season, but the Super Bowl episode didn’t persuade any new viewers to start watching live.
2014: ‘New Girl’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ (FOX)
Pre-Super Bowl season averages: 1.9 (“New Girl”) and 1.6 (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”)
Super Bowl episodes: 11.4 and 6.9
Halo: Nope. The weeks immediately after the game saw both shows come in below their prior season average.
2015: ‘The Blacklist’ (NBC)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: 2.7
Super Bowl episode: 8.4
Halo: Not really. The Super Bowl episode also teed up “The Blacklist’s” move to Thursday nights after a season-plus on Mondays after “The Voice.” The first Thursday episode earned a 2.4, with subsequent airings all falling below 2.0. It can’t really be quantified, but you could argue that without the promotion of a Super Bowl episode, ratings on Thursdays would have been lower.
2016: ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ (CBS)
Pre-Super Bowl season average: 0.7
Super Bowl episode: 7.7
Halo: None. The following day’s “Late Show” experienced a small uptick in ratings, but the show’s average for the week (0.55) was only a few hundredths of a point higher than the previous week. It remained in that range for the rest of the season.