Super Dud: Bowl numbers fall

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Tom Brady’s seventh SB victory doesn’t help ratings

Super Bowl LV wasn’t exactly the ratings bonanza CBS and the NFL hoped it would be. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the big game at their home at Raymond James Stadium, who were awarded the rights years ago. But the team landed a big-name free agent during the offseason to be their quarterback – the one and only Tom Brady, who has six Super Bowl titles to his name during his time with the New England Patriots. 

After three consecutive road playoff wins, the Bucs got to play in the Super Bowl in their own home stadium – an NFL first, although two teams did play in their home metro area (the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford.)  Facing the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Bucs beat them 31-9 and earned their second Super Bowl title in team history and Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl ring, surpassing Michael Jordan’s six NBA titles and perhaps cementing his status as The Greatest Of All Time. 

But it appears viewers didn’t exactly feel the love. Nielsen figures released Tuesday showed viewership falling to lows not seen in years. Among linear viewers, Super Bowl LV drew 91.63 million viewers adding 5.7 million streaming viewers, for a grand total of 96.4 million viewers across all platforms – the lowest tally for the big same since Super Bowl XLII matchup between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts (93.1 million.) In all, viewership  declined from Super Bowl LIV on Fox, which attracted 99.91 million for Chiefs-49ers. 

On the Programming Insider, my Super Bowl predictions fell way short with 99.7 million.

As for actual ratings, the game drew the lowest since Super Bowl III, the Joe Namath-Johnny Unitas matchup from 1969 with a 38.2 household rating, and down from the 41.6 earned last year. 

Among adults 18-49, the game drew a 26.5 rating, down 11 percent from last year and marked the ninth straight year of decline in the demo and the lowest tally since Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. Among adults 25-54, the game drew a 30.7 , down 10 percent from last year and a 20.9 rating in adults 18-34, down 13 percent. 

In Nielsen’s overnight markets, Kansas City was the top market, with KCTV drawing a 59.9 household rating, followed by WBZ/Boston’s 57.6 mark, Tom Brady’s former home market. Tampa-St. Petersburg was third with a 52.3 for WTSP. 

Even though it’s been 35 years since the Bears won a Super Bowl, their local 63.1 rating and 87 share in Super Bowl XX remains a record for any home market whose team was in the big game, with the Bears’ loss in Super Bowl XLII drawing a 50.2/77  local rating and share in 2007 though it did reach more viewers and homes due to Nielsen measurement changes. The Bears victory also remains the highest-rated program in Chicago television history, at least dating back to 1986 (Chicago ratings for this year’s big game were not available.) 

There were several theories on why Super Bowl ratings were down this year, but perhaps the strongest case was the number of people streaming the game – a record 5.7 million. Another likely reason was the game was a blowout, as it was practically over by halftime. And of course, you have the pandemic. 

Other factors in play include many Black viewers sitting out as the NFL continues to blackball Colin Kaepernick, and Tom Brady appearing in (and winning) the Super Bowl too many times. Others believe the NFL’s decision to tackle social issues may have made the game too political for some. 

But the bigger picture is, will these declining numbers affect the NFL when it comes to seeking new television deals? Likely not, given the league’s popularity and despite this year’s “low numbers”, the NFL still outdraws everything on television, hampered by viewers pivoting to streaming. 

Post-game entertainment: The new face of The Equalizer

After the big game, CBS did something no network hasn’t done in years: launch a new show after the Super Bowl though long lasting success isn’t guaranteed (only The A-Team and The Wonder Years, and to a lesser extent, Family Guy and Undercover Boss have achieved hit status.) 

With that said, the premiere 0f The Equalizer with Queen Latifah drew decent sampling with 20.4 million viewers (on the Programming Insider, I predicted 26.5 million.) In the adults 18-49 demo, Equalizer earned a 5.1 rating, and a 6.3 in the 25-54 target demo. 

If this is familiar to you, that’s because CBS aired a similar series with the same name from 1985-89 starring Edward Woodward, who was nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Drama series for four consecutive years in the title role. The series’ cancellation in 1989 came after CBS and producer Universal Television got into a dispute over the renewal of Murder, She Wrote. In an odd circumstance, the new Equalizer is being slotted in Wrote’s old post-60 Minutes time slot, a position the Angela Lansbury drama held for eleven of its twelve-season run.  

After its CBS run ended, off-network reruns aired on the USA Network. A film adapted from the TV show was released in 2014 and starred Denzel Washington with a sequel released in 2018.  



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