Wednesday, February 10, 2021

TV Ratings: 15% Audience Drop For Super Bowl On CBS

Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast on CBS attracted an audience of 96.4 million TV and digital viewers, falling to the lowest mark in over a decade, reports Bloomberg.

The championship, featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lopsided 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, marked a setback for the National Football League, which played many of its games in empty stadiums this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s broadcast on Fox drew an audience of 102 million, or 113 million with out-of-home viewing included. CBS’s audience of 96.4 million included people watching outside their homes.

The 15 per cent decline from last year made it the fewest people to watch the big game since 2007, when 93.2 million TV viewers tuned in to see the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears.

Regularly the most-watched TV event, the Super Bowl is viewed as a proxy for the popularity of live sports, especially in an era when millions of viewers are dropping cable for streaming services. It’s also an important vehicle for advertisers, who spend as much as US$5.5 million for a 30-second spot so they can reach a large audience. Last year’s broadcast generated almost US$450 million in ad sales, not counting pre- and postgame coverage.

The score is often a factor in how many viewers tune in and how long they watch -- and the Chiefs were never really in contention. Last year’s game, in which Kansas City beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20, was close until the final minutes, helping lift the audience from the year before.

The 2019 game, a low-scoring affair between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, drew a total viewership of 100.7 million, excluding out-of-home watching. The record of 114.4 million on that basis was set in 2015.

Wall Street Journal Graphic

The COVID-19 pandemic upended major sports leagues and their broadcast partners over the past year, forcing them to remake schedules and postpone games. Because of scheduling changes, different leagues’ seasons overlapped more than usual, meaning they had to compete more frequently for the same viewers.

The game is carried by a different broadcast network each year, with ViacomCBS Inc.’s CBS, Comcast Corp.’s NBC and Fox Corp.’s Fox splitting the TV rights.

CBS’s Super Bowl coverage was its most extensive ever, including seven hours of pregame programming starting at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. This season was particularly important for broadcasters because many are now negotiating renewals of their media contracts with the league.

And in case you were wondering, the second most-watched channel in primetime on Super Bowl Sunday was PBS, which aired its “Masterpiece” dramas. PBS averaged 1.848 million total viewers, according to Nielsen, airing Week 4 of “Miss Scarlet & the Duke” (1.916 million at 8 p.m.), Week 5 of “All Creatures Great and Small” (2.367 million at 9) and Week 2 of “The Long Song” (1.259 million at 10).

That lineup beat all the other Super Bowl LV counterprogramming on both broadcast and cable TV.

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