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A day later, Super Bowl LV’s ratings are in, and they are not great. CBS says the game drew just 96.4 million viewers, including out-of-home viewership, down from 113 million last year.
The TV presentation alone drew 91.6 million viewers, the lowest since 93.2 million tuned in to watch the Colts-Bears on CBS in 2007.
Streaming, however, was the Super Bowl’s sole bright spot with an average minute audience of 5.7 million, up 65% from a season ago.
I expected the ratings to dip year-over-year for a few reasons. Given the Super Bowl’s reach, which tops even presidential debates, it’s uniquely vulnerable to cord-cutting. That problem isn’t going away and is more of a threat each year. Secondly, the NFL went all-in on social topics during the pre-game. Despite what ESPN tells you, the more politics that are injected into sports, the more viewers tune out. Just ask the NBA about its record-low NBA Finals this season.
The game itself didn’t help the matter. It was bad. The first half was overshadowed by frustrating flags, the Chiefs’ beat-up offensive line turned the team’s must-see offense into an unpleasant viewing experience, and the game seemed over by halftime. The final score of 31-9 is a blowout, yet the full game felt even further out of reach than that. With fewer viewers attending Super Bowl parties due to COVID, the casual/only-watch-the-Super Bowl football viewers had little reason to keep watching the game.
I give the NFL an immense amount of credit for pulling this season off. It wasn’t easy. And though it was totally out of the league’s control, the gifted dream matchup of Brady vs. Mahomes was a dud. Save for former high football linemen, few fans get hyped up for a defensive line destroying backup offensive linemen. The viewership reflects that.
Super Bowl LV will still be the most-watched broadcast of the year, the NFL is still king, and the drop in viewership was foreseeable. However, there’s no way to spin this, the ratings here are not a win.