SBD/Issue 100/Sports Media

Historic Milestone? Super Bowl Could Surpass 100 Million Viewers

McManus Expects Extraordinary
Rating If Super Bowl Is Close
There is "growing chatter in broadcasting circles" that Sunday's Super Bowl XLIV on CBS "could become the most-viewed Super Bowl ever," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. No Super Bowl has drawn 100 million viewers, though NBC "came close last year" with 98.7 million viewers for Super Bowl XLIII. But Deitsch predicted Colts-Saints will top that mark, "especially with ugly weather slated for the East Coast this weekend." Deitsch: "If the game is close come the fourth quarter, it's a better than likely bet CBS Sports employees will be drinking champagne back at their ... hotel come Monday morning." CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus: "If we get a close game, I think we will get an extraordinary rating. And if we get just an OK game, I still think we get a really good rating with the storylines involved." Sunday's game marks the 17th Super Bowl broadcast for CBS, and CBS VP/Production Harold Bryant said that the network has "about 500 staffers working the game." When asked about the "expectations of such a huge audience," Bryant said, "I'm nervous and our team is nervous, but it's a good nervous. We're going to be ready to go." CBS Sports Director Mike Arnold, who also directed Super Bowl XLI, said, "For me, a successful Super Bowl broadcast is this: we didn't miss anything." Deitsch noted CBS "tends to play its broadcast traditionally and shtick-free," and the features planned are "mostly rooted in football." Bryant said that "The Super Bowl Today" pregame studio show from 2:00-6:00pm ET "has more than 10 features ready for air as well as an original musical piece composed by jazzman Wynton Marsalis, and a Jay-Z mash-up of 'Run This Town' that will run in a tease prior to kickoff." CBS News' Katie Couric "has a live interview" with President Obama that is expected to air around 4:30 (SI.com, 2/4). CBS' Jim Nantz noted NFL ratings this season have been "across the board up for everybody minimum 10%." Nantz: "If there happened to be that same kind of bump here in the Super Bowl ratings, we will have ... the biggest audience to ever watch a television event in the history of the country" ("Imus in the Morning," Fox Business, 2/5). 

MAKING PREDICTIONS: ADWEEK's Steve McClellan writes some believe the "mix of this year's huge, post-season NFL ratings coupled with spreading HDTV technology and a population focused on cheaper forms of entertainment could indeed drive the game to new heights" viewership-wise. Market research company IBISWorld Senior Industry Analyst Toon van Beeck predicted that the game will "average 100 million viewers this year." Horizon Media Senior VP and Corporate Research Dir Brad Adgate said he believes the game will earn "at least 100 million and, if it's a close game like the last two, it could even compete with ... MASH as the most-watched TV show ever." But others believe that this year's game "won't break any records, especially because the Vikings were knocked out by the Cinderella Saints." The Saints do not have the Vikings' "strong national following or its aging star quarterback, Brett Favre" (ADWEEK, 2/1 issue). NEWSDAY's Neil Best wrote the Super Bowl "probably will surpass 100 million for the first time, given the rising population and a season of big NFL ratings." If the game is "close and exciting it could challenge the mark by 'MASH' for the largest audience for a scheduled program on American TV: 106 million" (NEWSDAY, 2/4). In San Diego, Jay Posner writes the Super Bowl is "likely to become just the second telecast in history to average more than 100 million viewers." A winter storm "expected to bury much of the East in snow this weekend will only help keep people in front of their TVs, as will an enticing matchup between two exciting teams with great story lines." There is "also the fact that people can't seem to get enough of the NFL these days" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/5).

SURVEY SAYS: Respondents to a Media Life Magazine poll earlier this week were offered a "choice of seven ranges of viewership" for the Super Bowl, "from 80 million or fewer at the low end to 100.1 million or more." Thirty-four percent of respondents indicated that the game will draw between 99.1 million and 100 million viewers, while 29% chose 100.1 million or more. Another 15% chose between 98.1 million and 99 million viewers (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 2/4).

Super Bowl XLIV Audience Could
Surpass MASH's Record
EYE ON THE PRIZE: In Boston, Chad Finn writes it "would not be brash for CBS to expect monstrous ratings for the Super Bowl," and "to the network's credit, it is resisting the temptation to add any soft-focus embellishment to the game's naturally compelling story lines." There are "no Transformer-style robots during this telecast, just minor amplification of the usual technology," and there will be "more cameras used, including the high-speed 'swing vision' models that provide slow, crisp replays" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/5). Bryant said CBS' pregame show will have "more fan presence this time" than in '07, when the net last aired the Super Bowl. He noted that pregame was "a little sterile" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/5). Meanwhile, in Toronto, Chris Zelkovich reported the Vince Lombardi Trophy and several CFL Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders "posed for the main graphics that CBS will use during Sunday's Super Bowl." A Toronto warehouse was rented, and a "22-foot-high Super Bowl logo was ... built along with a 12-foot NFL on CBS logo." The graphics also "will be used on CBS for next season" (THESTAR.com, 2/4).

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