Those Super Bowl ratings weren't exactly... super

Everyone else had a chance to weigh in on the Super Bowl and I’m certainly not going to be denied my shot at it. But before the usual round of kvetching begins, it’s worth taking a moment to see just how excited everyone else was about the big game. And according to the overnight ratings the answer is… not so much. While not entirely tanking, Super Bowl LI managed to drop down in audience share to a size not seen in a couple of years. (Fortune)

Fox Television’s broadcast of Super Bowl LI on Sunday night drew a 48.8 overnight rating, according to Nielsen data released by the network, lower than the previous two Super Bowls.

The contest included a thrilling finish, with the New England Patriots topping the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football league’s first-ever Super Bowl overtime. The Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit and quarterback Tom Brady, 39, won his record fifth championship.

The brief overtime, in which the Patriots scored a touchdown in their first possession, allowed Fox to add four more commercials, and the network brought in an estimated $509.6 million in ad revenue for the broadcast, according to research firm iSpot.TV.

So it wasn’t a total train wreck in the ratings, but traditionally the Super Bowl audience grows along with the country’s population. This, however, continues a two year trend in the wrong direction. Last year’s game was only a smidgen better with a 49.0 and that one was down considerably from the 49.7 rating in the 49th edition of the annual spectacle.

So what explains it? The great thing about this question is that you get to make up whatever answer you like since we’ll never be able to definitively quantify it. But we might be able to rule a few things out. Some have argued that the teams which are less nationally famous don’t draw as much of a crowd as the historical “big names” such as when there’s an NFC East team involved. That’s definitely true of Atlanta, but the Patriots are pretty well known. (Even if it’s not all positive name recognition.) Also, the better rated match-up of two years ago also featured the Patriots and they were playing the Seahawks, arguably on the same tier of national branding as the Falcons.

I’m more inclined to think it’s a continuation of a pattern. Ratings have been down all season across the board and I refuse to believe that it doesn’t have something to do with the incessant politicization of the sport. Colin Kaepernick certainly drove some nails in the coffin, but even going into the post season there were questions over everything from the advertisements we expected to see to whether or not Lady Gaga was going to launch into an anti-Trump diatribe at half time. (For the record, she thankfully did not.) They didn’t help themselves any by vigorously denying that she was being “silenced” from talking politics. If the league is the one hiring her they had every right to limit the content, but instead they left it all a mystery. That was almost enough to turn me off an I never miss the big game. Perhaps the NFL head office could reflect on that in terms of how they handle both their players’ behavior and the entertainment they select going forward. This is costing you money, guys.

In closing, I suppose I’ll give grudging congratulations to Tom Brady and the Pats. I still hate you, along with virtually every other New York Jets fan I know, but you obviously earned what you took home. And there wasn’t even any obvious cheating. (No.. I wasn’t even going to attempt to restrain myself there.) We’ll see you again next season. And this time you’re going down for sure.

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