SBJ/Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2017/Media

Experts don’t see Super Bowl numbers sagging

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Viewership for all 10 NFL playoff games is down a combined 4 percent. Regular-season viewership was down close to double digits. I see no reason why the Super Bowl should change that storyline.

Last year’s Broncos-Panthers game averaged a 46.6 rating and 111.9 million viewers. My prediction is that this year will see a 5 percent drop to 106 million viewers.

The NFL’s declining television ratings became a dominant off-field storyline during the season. I asked five people who work in the sports media business to offer their predictions.

It appears that my viewership guess is an outlier. Most see the Super Bowl as a national holiday that will remain impervious to problems affecting the rest of the media business, at least for this year. This year, that translates to ratings that will be flat or down slightly.

Consensus is that viewership will be fueled by the Patriots, who have a national following of supporters and detractors, rather than the Falcons, who participated in the lowest-rated Super Bowl over the past two decades, when they played the Broncos in 1999.

Chris Berman, studio host, ESPN
The last four Super Bowls have had either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady playing. You have a built-in tune-in with those well-known players. The casual fan will be familiar with this year’s game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Last year, Peyton Manning was a national story. He was well known, beloved and playing in his last game. His opponent, the Carolina Panthers, was not a national storyline. This year, it’s Tom Brady against a team that’s not well-known nationally. I expect a TV rating similar to last year. If there’s a blizzard anywhere in the country during the game, it will be even higher.

The familiar presence of Tom Brady will have casual fans tuning in, ESPN’s Chris Berman says.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Ed Desser, president, Desser Sports Media
While not perhaps a classic, historic NFL rematch, just having Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl provides great storylines. We will all be hearing about the early season suspension; if Atlanta has a chance, or if they will be so underestimated that they will take New England by surprise (hey, they did just rout Green Bay); if the NFL can recover from two blowouts this past weekend, etc. I’m here to say that the Super Bowl rating, provided the game stays close, will be in about the same mid-40s-rating neighborhood as the last Pats appearance two years ago. The Super Bowl is among the last true sports TV holidays, where the game itself is less important than the overall event. Three cheers for the perennial power of sports media.

Frank Hawkins, co-founder, Scalar Media Partners
I’m expecting Super Bowl LI to be at the low end of the ratings plateau that the NFL has reached and maintained over the past decade. The Falcons have a great offense but no national following. The Patriots have both a great defense and Tom Brady on a mission to make fans forget — and the league office regret — Deflategate. The NFL’s PR machine can use these building blocks to create a lot of buzz around the game to drive initial tune-in, but Belichick’s defensive genius could drive a lot of early tune-out. Overall, I’d guess there will be just under 110 million viewers, a rating in the 45/46 range, and about a 67 share — a success, but not a record-breaker.

Doug Perlman, CEO, Sports Media Advisors LLC
The Patriots are a national brand that inspires strong feelings among their supporters and detractors, and I don’t expect any “Patriots fatigue.” In fact, the Deflategate storyline should generate incremental interest. The Falcons are a wild card, but the team’s high-powered offense and stars that are well known to the fantasy league crowd should have mass appeal. While the media landscape is changing at a rapid pace, I don’t expect that to have much of an effect. I expect a high-scoring, competitive game and that Fox will generate a final rating of 46.5-47.

Amy Trask, football analyst, CBS Sports Network
While ratings might not be as strong as would be the case if the NFC representative was from a bigger market or had a bigger national fan base, I think that ratings (assuming no zany world events) will be stronger than do many of my colleagues with whom I have spoken. The matchup is intriguing and could yield an exciting game. I don’t believe that there was any one particular reason for the overall decline in ratings this season and this Super Bowl will offer an interesting data point.

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

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