No Super Bowl blues; expect big TV ratings
The U.S. economy might be weak, but the Super Bowl still scores with consumers.
The CBS broadcast of the National Football League’s championship game on Feb. 7 between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints should draw strong TV ratings, possibly challenging viewer levels not seen since the late 1990s.
“We’re looking at a big rating,” said Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and head of his own sports consulting firm. “The fact that the two conference championships got better than usual ratings usually indicates that there’s a lot of public interest.”
The NFC Championship game between New Orleans and the Minnesota Vikings drew 57.9 million viewers, ranking it as the most watched conference championship game since the 1981 contest between Dallas and San Francisco that featured “The Catch.” It was also the most heavily watched TV program, excluding Super Bowls, since the 1998 “Seinfeld” finale.
Meanwhile, the AFC final between Indianapolis and the New York Jets drew 46.9 million viewers, ranking it as the most watched AFC Championship in 24 years.
While a Super Bowl with popular Vikings quarterback Brett Favre might have scored a higher rating than the current matchup, the Saints are an exciting team that received a lot of exposure in the championship, Pilson said. It also helps that it’s the first NFL championship to feature both conferences’ No. 1 seeds since January 1994, when Dallas played Buffalo.
If the game remains close into the fourth quarter, he expects a rating of 43.0 or better. A ratings point is a percentage of U.S. television households that watched the game.
The largest ever viewing audience for the Super Bowl was the 98.7 million for last year’s contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, according to Nielsen. That game scored a rating of 42.0, down from 43.1 for the 2008 game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.
Before 2008, the last Super Bowl to score that high a TV rating was in 2000 (St. Louis vs. Tennessee, 43.3), while the 1998 game (Green Bay vs. Denver) scored 44.5, Nielsen said. The highest ever rating for a Super Bowl was for the San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals game in 1982 (49.1).
Those kind of audiences also remain a huge draw for advertisers, who are paying about $3 million for 30-second ad slots to hawk their products.
“It is the premier entertainment, sports property in America today,” Pilson said. “There’s nothing that approaches the Super Bowl.”
(Reuters photo of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning during AFC Championship)