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Super Bowl ratings up slightly but fail to draw 100m linear TV viewers once again

Fox Sports’ broadcast of Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers averaged 99.9m viewers in the United States on the Fox network and 102m viewers on all Fox platforms, including Fox, Fox Deportes, and various streaming channels.

The totals meant that the Super Bowl, won this year by the Chiefs amid a frenetic fourth-quarter comeback, posted the event’s first viewership increase in five years. But it was also the second year in a row that the National Football League championship game failed to top 100m viewers on network TV in the US, though the game will again be far and away the most-watched programming on American television all year, regardless of genre.

Prior to the last two seasons, the Super Bowl topped 100m viewers on its primary US broadcast for nine consecutive years.

Both the linear TV audience and total audience viewership for Super Bowl LIV were up 1.4 per cent on last year’s game. The low-scoring game a year ago between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams averaged 98.2m viewers on CBS, which was the lowest broadcast network viewership total since 2008, and 100.7m across all platforms.

This year, Kansas City not surprisingly led all individual US media markets, posting a 55.7 rating. That local figure peaked at a 62.6 rating in the final quarter, including a whopping 97 per cent share of the audience, as the Chiefs rallied from behind to defeat the 49ers 31-20 at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

That share figure means that just 3 per cent of TVs in use in the Kansas City market during that late-game time period were watching something besides the Super Bowl. And the figure drew amazement from even senior network executives.

“The shares are unbelievable,” tweeted Michael Mulvihill, Fox Sports executive vice president and head of strategy. “A peak share of 97?!? Never seen that before.”

The other top-five local markets for Super Bowl viewership were Milwaukee, Nashville, Denver, and Boston. Despite San Francisco’s presence in the game, the Bay Area did not crack the top 10, not surprising given that West Coast market viewership is often lower due to the game’s 3.30pm start time in the Pacific time zone.

Despite the high-quality on-field action of the game, Mulvihill said the network’s ratings boost was dulled somewhat by a relatively short real-time game duration, no major storms in the US to drive more people inside to the their TVs, and a lower viewership in Miami compared to last year’s host market, Atlanta.

The half-time performance quarter-hour (8.15-8.30pm ET), meanwhile, delivered 103.2m viewers, while viewership overall for Fox’s coverage peaked during the 9.45-10pm quarter-hour with 103.5m viewers. The pre-game show Fox Super Bowl Sunday drew 21.6m viewers, which was up 26 per cent on last year’s pre-game show.

The Spanish-language Fox Deportes delivered 757,000 viewers, which was 60 per cent higher than ESPN Deportes’ ratings last year. This is believed to be in part due to Hispanic pop stars Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performing during the half-time show.

The Super Bowl ratings uptick, albeit a marginal one, follows a similar boost for the NFL, which ended its 2019 regular season with an average US television audience of 16.5m, up five per cent from the year before and the second straight annual increase.

CBS will broadcast Super Bowl LV from Tampa in 2021 and NBC will air Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles in 2022 following a swap between the networks.