ESPN doesn’t televise the Super Bowl, but they do saturate the big game with wall-to-wall coverage each and every year. Earlier this week, the network announced that sports fans had watched an impossibly large amount of television to consume from the Pro Bowl to the Super Bowl. Viewers watched a total of over 7.1 billion minutes of Bristol’s Super Bowl and NFL coverage throughout the week across ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNEWS.
Ok, but what does that mean exactly?
While it might be hard to appreciate those numbers without much context, it is interesting to note that it does represent significant growth for Super Bowl week at ESPN. According to an ESPN spokesperson, the network’s Super Bowl week NFL coverage generated just over 6 billion minutes of reach in 2014. Therefore, the network’s NFL offerings during the week leading up to the game grew by 18% in 2015.
With the popularity and interest in the NFL, one would assume there wouldn’t be that much room to grow. The Super Bowl audience set a new record audience on Sunday night with 114.4 million, but that only represented a 1.9% increase from last year. So how did ESPN get to 18%?
The answers seem obvious – first of all the network had the rights to the Pro Bowl this year from NBC. And in spite of all the derision and mockery towards the game, it still drew an audience of 8.7 million viewers. That kind of audience provides a massive boost to the bottom line.
The second answer is equally as important – the DeflateGate controversy. With there being more controversy and drama than ever entering the big game, clearly ESPN was a huge beneficiary. And between DeflateGate, Marshawn Lynch, Media Day, Roger Goodell, and all the other intrigue during Super Bowl week, Bristol’s wall-to-wall coverage definitely benefitted.
The Super Bowl isn’t just a three hour game anymore. It’s a week long event. And it’s in that wall-to-wall coverage, and ESPN’s ability to saturate an event from head to toe, where it maintains its massive gap over prospective rivals like NBCSN and Fox Sports 1.