Sunday's online stream of Super Bowl XLVI drew 2.1 million unique users, setting a new record for the largest audience for a single-game sports event shown on the Internet. The online draw, coupled with an all-time audience mark for the televised feed of the game, caps a historic week for NBC Sports. Much like March Madness on Demand and other major sports events with mutli-platform distribution, the online audience for the Super Bowl also served as further proof that fears of audience cannibalization are overstated. "The record traffic that grew throughout the event, as well as the record high engagement numbers, underscores the complementary aspect of digital as an enhancement to our exceptional television coverage," said NBC Sports Senior VP/Business Development and Managing Dir of NBC Sports Digital Kevin Monaghan. The prior highwater marks for a specific sports event online had been 1.153 million unique users for a BYU-Florida game during the '10 NCAA men's basketball tournament and nearly 1.1 million uniques on ESPN3 for the U.S.-Algeria '10 FIFA World Cup match. Both of those events were on weekdays and driven heavily by at-work audiences. The Super Bowl audience was also as much as 10 times the 200,000-300,000 viewers typically watching "Sunday Night Football" online. Engagement on the Super Bowl feed averaged more than 39 minutes per visit, and overall, NBCSports.com streamed 78.6 million minutes of Super Bowl content. The online stream was accessible on both NFL.com and NBCSports.com, both of which routed to an NBCSports.com-supported video player. Network and league execs declined to specify how much referral traffic each site generated (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Brian Stelter noted despite some complaints from users, NBC "deemed the stream to be a success" (NYTIMES.com, 2/7). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes it is "hard to believe broadcasters used to worry that streaming live sports online might cannibalize the TV audiences they pay huge rights fees to attract." The pattern is that "big events online draw crowds, but not like their bigger-screen brethren" (USA TODAY, 2/8).
BAD SURF CONDITIONS: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Todd Spangler cited a study by network-equipment maker Sandvine which indicated that with 111 million Americans "tuning in to Sunday's Super Bowl on TV, overall Internet usage in the U.S. declined as much as 20% on Feb. 5 compared with an average Sunday, even with NBC's debut of the first legal online video feed of the game." NBC's online stream "accounted for 6.2% of all downstream broadband traffic in the U.S." at 9:00pm ET Sunday (MULTICHANNEL.com, 2/7).
TUNING IN TO RADIO: Dial Global announced yesterday that 23.1 million people tuned in for the Super Bowl XLVI radio broadcast. Dial Global commissioned the study from Edison Research (THE DAILY).
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' work as a guest analyst for NBC's Super Bowl XLVI pregame show "proved he could talk as good a game as he can play one," according to Bob Wolfley of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. NBC Sports Network Exec Producer Sam Flood said yesterday, "The analysts were a big win. [Steelers WR Hines Ward] and Aaron added a whole other dimension to the show, which was great. They had played in the Super Bowl just one year earlier and to have their perspective was pretty special." Flood added, "I was amazed by how comfortable he was in that environment. He worked really well with Bob Costas and Hines. And then he mixed in with Tony Dungy and Dan Patrick, fabulous stuff came out there as well. ... His ability to pick up that microphone and be a natural right off the bat was great." Flood also said that he "no trouble imagining Rodgers having success in television broadcasting once his playing career is over." Flood: "He has all the skills and the personality, that’s the combination." But Rodgers said that he is "not aiming to enter broadcasting when his playing career ends." He said, "As much fun as it was to be in that setting ... I really would like to use my talents to do other things when I am done playing." Rodgers said of the experience, "I really had a lot of freedom about what I wanted to say. I think NBC people were happy with the way it went." Wolfley notes in rehersal Rodgers "learned he was to appear in 11 segments during the show, but that changed." Rodgers: "On Sunday they added a couple extra (segments) in and changed the format a little bit to give me a little more opportunity" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENINEL, 2/8). In Green Bay, Mike Vandermause noted there have been "rave reviews for Aaron Rodgers’ performance as a football analyst." Rodgers said that after appearing on NBC, he has a "new-found respect for broadcasters." He also said that he has "received some feelers about appearing on Saturday Night Live and talked to some cast members over the weekend." He is "hopeful something can be worked out" (GREENBAYPRESSGAZETTE.com, 2/7).
ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: ESPN's "NFL Primetime" special following the Super Bowl from 10:14-11:16pm ET the most-viewed sports program on cable TV last week with 2.66 million viewers, while the net's "Sunday NFL Countdown" from 10:00am-2:00pm on Sunday averaged 1.85 million viewers. NFL Network's "NFL gameDay Final" after rhe Super Bowl from 9:53-11:00pm averaged 723,000 viewers, while its "NFL GameDay Morning" from 9:00am-5:30pm recorded 528,000 viewers. NBC Sports Network's "Costas Tonight: Live from the Super Bowl" from 8:00-10:00pm scored only 139,000 viewers for its Thursday premiere (CABLEFAX DAILY, 2/8).
EA Sports yesterday announced a "legacy challenge mode" to its upcoming "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13" release, featuring levels in which users play as Woods at various stages of his life, ranging from a two-year-old to a future Woods seeking a record 19th major title. The mode features a total of nine stages of Woods at various ages, though there is no reference to the late '09, early '10 period that marked the height of Woods' personal scandals. Woods participated extensively in the development of the mode, contributing a variety of old photographs and personal anecdotes to EA Sports developers to help recreate various visual settings. EA Sports has been among Woods' staunchest supporters throughout the ugly collapse of his marriage, a PGA Tour winless streak of more than two years, and last year's fall to 128th on the Tour money list. "Our challenge with 'Tiger,' like all our games, is to raise the bar and bring new things in every year. But, here, we're telling a story of a very human side of Tiger and his development as a golfer," said EA COO Peter Moore. "It's almost like we're making the very first golf (role playing game)." The game is set for release March 27.
Yahoo Sports again earned the top spot on comScore's monthly rankings of U.S. online sports destinations, pulling in an audience of 54.96 million unique visitors in January. But the biggest story was the fall of ESPN.com to the third slot, behind FoxSports.com. The shift, ESPN's first month outside the top two positions in more than four years, owes primarily to the loss of Active.com's traffic assignment (5.8 million uniques in January) to the ESPN total. ESPN had been at 43.325 million uniques in December, but has shed the Active.com traffic, and is now focusing on its core and owned properties such as the main ESPN.com site, Grantland, Jayski and its set of local-market destinations. ESPN maintains its typical sizable lead in time spent among sports sites, holding a 32.1% category share of the online sports audience compared to Yahoo's 19.9%. Fox' rise in the comScore rankings, meanwhile, owes in significant part to continued growth of the Yardbarker blog network, which Fox bought in '10. Yardbarker posted 21.49 million unique users during January, nearly equal to the 21.97 million generated by FoxSports.com itself.
TOP ONLINE SPORTS DESTINATIONS IN JANUARY (BY UNIQUE VISITORS)
Big Lead Sports**
USA Today Sports Media Group***
NOTES: * = Sites include NBA.com, SI.com, NASCAR.com, PGATour.com, PGA.com, NCAA.com and WNBA.com.. ** = Sites include The Big Lead, HoopsHype.com, HoopsWorld.com, KFFL.com, The Huddle, BaseballHQ.com and other sites within Fantasy Sports Ventures Inc. *** = Sites include 81 local Gannett newspaper sites, 23 Gannett-owned broadcast TV station sites, HighSchoolSports.net and the BNQT Media Group, which includes MMAjunkie.com.