When I wrote about the worst Super Bowl ever earlier this week, I received some pushback from a few sources. That included Ed Morrissey, who said he actually quite enjoyed it as a classic example of a pitched defensive struggle. At the time I noted that the overnight peek at the numbers didn’t look promising, but we’d have to wait to see how it all shook out. As it happens, the preview was fairly accurate. Super Bowl LIII turned in one of the more dismal sets of ratings the big game has generated in quite a while. (New York Post)
Here’s a Super Bowl bet that didn’t pay off: ponying up more than $5 million for one of the NFL’s 30-second TV spots.
The big game’s TV ratings on Sunday slid to their lowest point in a decade, queuing up advertisers like Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Amazon, Pepsi, T-Mobile and Hulu for possible buyer’s remorse.
The Patriots’ 13-3 win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII was not only the lowest-rated title game in 10 years, but also the lowest-scoring ever.
The matchup broadcast on CBS nabbed a 44.9 rating, according to the Sports Business Journal, declining 5.3 percent from last year. It’s the worst rating since Super Bowl XLIII of 2009, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals.
Five percent may not sound like that massive of a decline, but when you consider the sheer volume of the audience it normally pulls in, that adds up to a lot of households. Also, viewership declined in the second half of the game rather than the normal pattern of more people tuning in who got home late or were waiting for the exciting conclusion.
The problem with television ratings is that they never give you a specific reason why a particular show does well or tanks. In this case, I think we can hazard a few guesses, however.
First off, the lowest scoring Super Bowl having lower ratings probably isn’t an accident. As unfair as it is to the defensive units (who are critical to any team’s playoff hopes), people like to watch games with a lot of scoring and endzone celebrations. This is one of the biggest complaints about soccer, leading to its failure to attract the same sort of following in America that football generally does. Most of us don’t enjoy watching the teams running back and forth, up and down the field and failing to close the deal.
Second, let’s be honest about one fact of life here. Outside of the greater Boston area, people hate the New England Patriots. (No… it’s not just me.) Despite having earned their impressive string of victories (except when they get caught cheating), they’ve managed to alienate most of the country. One study done in the days leading up to the game found that nearly everyone was rooting for the Rams. Maybe if Los Angeles had come out and started dominating New England more people would have tuned in or stuck around.
And finally, while the overall ratings for the NFL rebounded a bit this season, the overt politicization of the sport has cost the league a lot of viewers who tuned out and haven’t come back. That poisonous effect is obviously still in play and football won’t fully recover any time soon. Rumors that Maroon 5 was going to get all political (which didn’t happen) probably didn’t help either.
So all in all, the league and the advertisers were the big losers Sunday night. And by the way, the Patriots are still a bunch of jerks.