If you were hoping the Super Bowl would offer some closure on a year of debate over NFL television ratings, you will not likely be satisfied this morning.
NBC announced Monday that the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the Patriots earned a 47.4 overnight rating, a number that’s difficult to parse. On one hand, that is the lowest figure for a Super Bowl since 2010, despite a thrilling game. On the other hand, it was down only 3 percent from last year and did not dip at the same rate as the regular season and the rest of the playoffs. Per NBC, the Super Bowl out-rated all previous postseason games by 143 percent, the largest margin in Super Bowl history.
As this helpful chart from Sports TV Ratings shows, Eagles-Patriots was roughly in line with (but on the lower end of) the previous nine Super Bowls.
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) February 5, 2018
NBC’s rating for the Super Bowl appears sturdy considering broader trends in NFL TV viewership. League ratings were down 10 percent in the regular season and down by various margins in the wild-card, divisional and conference championship playoff rounds, amid much debate over the cause of the declines.
However, it makes sense that the Super Bowl would be immune to some broader trends in the league’s ratings. Even people who are disenchanted with the NFL for various reasons can put aside those feelings for the spectacle of America’s biggest sporting event, and even people who don’t watch much linear TV likely find a screen for this one night a year. For many Americans, the Super Bowl is much bigger than an NFL championship game. It’s a cultural institution.
Via NBC, here are some other Super Bowl nuggets from the overnight data:
- The game will, of course, be the most watched television event since last year’s Super Bowl.
- It was the ninth highest rated Super Bowl ever, with most of the games above it on that list coming in recent years.
- It peaked in the fourth quarter between 10 and 10:15, with a 52.2 overnight rating.
- Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance averaged a 48.1, slightly higher than the rest of the game. The halftime performance beating the game is not unusual.
- The second half of the game, which was close and well-played, out-rated the first half by 8 percent.
- The top market for Eagles-Patriots was Buffalo (56.4), followed by Philadelphia (56.2), Boston (55.9), Minneapolis-St. Paul (54.9) and Pittsburgh (54.9). As Fox Sports’ Michael Mulvihill points out, the market with the highest rating for the Super Bowl is often one whose team is not involved in the game because hometown fans are more likely to watch at bars.
UPDATE: Average viewership for Sunday’s game followed the same broad pattern as overnight ratings: Down from last year, with the lowest number for a Super Bowl in a while, but not anything like a total disaster.
Per NBC, Eagles-Patriots drew 103.4 million viewers, down about 7 percent from last year and the lowest Super-Bowl figure since 2009. Still, it was the ninth most watched Super Bowl and 10th most watched program in television history.
Though NBC and the NFL can’t be thrilled about the decline in viewership, they got a small silver lining in the form of streaming data. Per NBC, live streams on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app and other platforms averaged 2.02 million viewers, making Eagles-Patriots the most streamed Super Bowl ever. Digital viewers bring the total average viewership for the game up to about 106 million.