Your Trusty 2019 Super Bowl Ratings Primer

01.30.19 / Mike Skandalis / Media

*All sourcing is from Nielsen, except where NFL is noted

As far as television viewership goes, the NFL is still king, with the Super Bowl serving as the biggest attraction of the year. By a mile.

The NFL accounted for 46 of the top 50 broadcasts in the United States in 2018 and the Super Bowl remains the highest rated program of the year – every year. Don’t expect 2019 to be much different.

Over the past 10 years, the big game has averaged a 45.6 HH rating (percentage of households watching that program). Last year’s “Philly Special” alone reached 109 million total viewers. That’s nearly half the homes in the United States. Can you imagine the amount of buffalo wings consumed during that time?

But that’s for a different blog.

For comparison, consider that the highest rated show on TV over the past 10 years was American Idol – in 2009. It averaged a 15.1 HH rating, just one third the audience of the big game.

More recently, the No. 1 show in 2018 was Big Bang Theory at a 11.1 HH rating. That’s just one quarter of the Super Bowl audience.

Much has been made of the decline in ratings since the 2018 Super Bowl was off by seven percent, signaling the lowest mark in nine years. As a matter of fact, the regular season declined eight percent in 2016 and 10 percent in 2017.

Opinions are plentiful on the decline as the league dealt with PR problems left, right, up, and down. But in 2018, there was a rebound. The league reports that ratings were up 5 percent across the board. This included prime-time games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday, as well as Sunday afternoon.

Streaming of NFL games was also up 86 percent with Yahoo Sports and NFL mobile apps that allow you to watch your local game live.

With teams from both coasts in large markets (Los Angeles and Boston), there is little doubt that the Super Bowl will follow the season-long trends. But the truth is, there is very little variance when it comes to Super Bowl ratings.

The lowest rated was Super Bowl III (1969), when the New York Jets took down the Baltimore Colts at 36 HH rating. The highest was Super Bowl XVI (1982), which featured Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers defeating the Cincinnati Bengals at 49.1 HH rating.

The all-time Super Bowl average for 52 games is a 43.5 HH rating. The last 26 Super Bowls averaged a 43.6 HH rating. There have only been five games in the 30s, though mid-40s is the standard and there is very little deviation. Click here for a complete list of ratings in Super Bowl history.

CBS Sports will broadcast this year’s game, but historically, only about three percent of viewership comes via streaming. Live viewing (waiting for the commercials) still remains the way to watch the action.

As far as big game advertising goes (which, for the majority of viewers might represent the highlight of the evening), there are several factors to consider, starting with price. Brands will have a highly engaged, guaranteed, non-DVR audience, which is premium.

They’ll want to have a commercial that is worthy of the extra attention, so consider production expenses as well. Compare the cost per thousand impressions of the game to other channels in your marketing mix and decide if the premium cost makes sense for your objectives.

Your friendly neighborhood agency will be of great help here.

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