This article was published 11 years ago

Streaming is eating into TV ratings of the Super Bowl

Superbowl Louisiana Superdome SuperBowl XLVII Baltimore Ravens San Francisco 49ers
Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s poster on display outside the Louisiana Superdome at Super Bowl XLVII – Image credit: Flickr / djanimal

Last year’s Super Bowl was a year of firsts: first Super Bowl for Indianapolis, Indiana and Lucas Oil Stadium and the first to stream the game online as well as Verizon Wireless subscribers. What was significant about last year’s Super Bowl: from Super Bowl XLV (45) to XLVI (46), only 300,000 new viewers were added to the TV ratings, compared to 4.5 million new viewers added from Super Bowl XLIV (44) to XLV (45). What slowed the trend? 2.1 million watched the game online.

TV ratings for the Super Bowl came out yesterday and while the game became the third most-watched television event in the country with an average of 108.4 million viewers, ratings were down compared to last year (111.3 million). Online numbers were released today and 3 million unique viewers watched the game online at CBS, up 900,000 viewers from last year when NBC streamed the event.

Super Bowl TV ratings
Super Bowl TV ratings – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou

When you look at the chart above, it’s pretty clear that online numbers are taking away TV viewers. TV executives will dismiss the motion that online numbers are eating into TV ratings of the Super Bowl because hundreds of millions of viewers will watch the game on a big-screen TV instead of a small screen. That is true as well as the fact that people watch the big game in groups either at parties or bars, which are not included in the final TV ratings.

But the trend is going in that direction, especially since the Super Bowl TV commercials as well as the halftime show were add the Internet stream this year which was not last year.

And since the trend is going towards online, expect these items will occur:

  • A commercial will air for the online audience instead of the TV audience. (This maybe a decade from now, real question will be the price for a 30 second online spot)
  • A major TV market will have a higher online audience than the TV audience. (We don’t know if this happen in the San Francisco TV market, which didn’t make the top 10 of TV markets that watched the Super Bowl)

Something else to consider: could this downward trend in the TV ratings indicate that the popularity of the NFL is starting a downward trend? I don’t see it but it’s something that should be in the mind of the NFL.