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Super Bowl XLVI Television Ratings May Boom or Bust: Fan Take
Television ratings of the Super Bowl have steadily climbed over the past six years. Zap2It's TV by the Numbers states the most viewers of any Super Bowl happened last year when 111 million people watched the Green Bay Packers make an improbable run through the NFL playoffs to stun the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Those ratings numbers are both good and bad for the NFL. The ratings and the hype for the big game were perfect considering Green Bay is the smallest market of any NFL franchise. Pittsburgh ranks 20th, according to NFL statistics in 2011.
Now, there is a veritable gold mine of viewers that could take Super Bowl advertising to the next level. The New York Giants and New England Patriots meet for the second time in four years. New York is the largest NFL market and the Boston area is sixth. That means tons of fans will watch from those two cities alone. With the rest of the NFL world focusing on one game in one city in Indianapolis, there may be a ratings bonanza.
Yet the highest ratings for a Super Bowl in history may also be an albatross around the NFL's neck. There won't be matchups every year that feature large market teams. Plus it is hard to maintain levels of ratings on a consistent basis for any television show.
Four of the top five Super Bowls in terms of numbers of viewers were in the past four years. USA Today reported in 2010 that the New Orleans Saints' victory over the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 was the Holy Grail of television ratings. For the first time since 1983, the NFL's title game topped the finale of "M*A*S*H" in terms of viewership. To keep that pattern going, the NFL needs to keep topping itself every season. The constant media blitz of NFL coverage, with barely any offseason, certainly helps.
Yet there is another point that the NFL needs to embrace. When "M*A*S*H" had 106 million viewers, the population of theh United States was much less. The Street points out that while 111 million Americans watched last year's event, there are still 200 million more that tuned out the Super Bowl despite all of the hype.
Anything less than ratings perfection will be dire for the NFL. It has to find a way to keep fans interested so advertisers will be willing to spend big bucks on the big game.
One thing to consider are the demographics of the population. Most of the NFL's viewers are probably younger people who watch regularly or maybe just need an excuse to have a party in early February. One large segment of the population consists of baby boomers, an older generation of Americans who may have other things to worry about such as their health or pending retirements.
Another segment of the population that doesn't watch the Super Bowl are the people who work that night. Imagine all of the restaurants, sports bars and pizza places that remain open to cater to fans. It would be hard to count one television set in a sports bar surrounded by 50 people watching the game. The ratings are probably higher than advertisers realize because of the single television surrounded by dozens of party goers.
No matter how the ratings shake out this year, the Super Bowl's marketing blitz is a juggernaut that is uniquely American. Let's celebrate this great American institution by tuning in, shall we?
William Browning is a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs after latching on to the team during the lean years of St. Louis football. Born in the gateway city, he is also a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. He currently resides in Branson, Mo.
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