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Super Bowl ratings still super, but drop for Rams-Patriots snoozer

Preliminary ratings for Sunday night's Super Bowl 53 show a 5% decline from last year's game.

Super Bowl LIII averaged 100.7 million viewers across several channels and streaming outlets, according to CBS.

The overall viewership was the lowest total for a Super Bowl match-up since 2009.

With almost everyone except Patriots fans calling the low-scoring game a snooze, the relatively low ratings come as little surprise.

The Super Bowl still ranks as the most-watched program of the year in the United States, by a margin of tens of millions, and that’s what makes it a one-of-a-kind platform for advertisers and marketers. But even the Super Bowl isn’t immune to the fragmentation of the TV business. Viewership has clearly come down from its highs of several years ago, when more than 110 million people tuned in.

The last time CBS televised the Super Bowl, in 2016, the game averaged almost 112 million viewers on TV. In 2017, viewership held steady around 111 million. In 2018, it dropped to 103.4 million viewers on TV.

But those figure are not comparable to this year’s total of 100.7 million, because this year’s figure also includes some streaming and Spanish-language broadcasts of the game.

Nielsen said the apple-to-apples figure — viewership of the game on the CBS broadcast network — for this year is 98.2 million viewers.

So that’s a year-over-year decline of about 5 million viewers.

Many factors affect football viewership — even the weather in various markets across the country. Relative interest in the two teams is a big factor. The prospect of the Patriots winning yet another championship may have dampened enthusiasm this year.

The Nielsen data is a per-minute average for the viewership of the entire game. Certain parts of the game, like the end of the fourth quarter, were more highly rated than other parts.

CBS said the game was watched “in all-or-part” by 149 million people on the television network, meaning that lots of people channel surfed for parts of the Patriots-Rams face-off.

About 2.6 million people live-streamed Sunday’s game through a variety of sites and apps, a 31% increase in streaming from last year’s Super Bowl.

Sunday’s relatively soft ratings compared with recent Super Bowls stand in contrast to a strong season overall for NFL viewership.

On average, NFL games were up 5% compared with the 2017 season.

Experts said a jump in offense — high scoring and hotly contested games — led to a jump in ratings.

Sunday’s Super Bowl may be further proof of that thesis.

“Fans who were hoping to tune into a high-scoring Super Bowl were treated to the exact opposite, a defensive slugfest spurred by defensive masterminds on both sides,” Yahoo senior NFL writer Terez Paylor wrote Monday morning.

It was the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jason Gay called it a “snoozer bowl for the ages.”

Most viewers still stayed up and watched — but it’s no wonder why viewership was off from past years.


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