Ratings ‘Falter’ as Super Bowl Disappoints

It’s all relative; blowout still delivers 96.9 million viewers

It may have been the least competitive Super Bowl in recent memory, but Fox’s coverage of last night’s Seahawks-Broncos blowout still appears to have delivered massive ratings.

According to preliminary Nielsen data, Super Bowl XLVIII delivered an estimated 96.9 million viewers and a 34.4 rating in the adults 18-49 demo. While that’s down significantly from last year’s fast nationals (108.6 million viewers and a 38.5 in the demo), we won’t have a more accurate picture of how the numbers will shake out until the final live-plus-same-day numbers are released later today.

The game notched a 47.6 overnight household rating, down just 1 percent from last year’s preliminary (48.1). The early rating is the lowest for a Super Bowl broadcast since the Saints beat the Colts on CBS in 2010 (46.4).

(Because fast nationals are not time zone adjusted, they are directional at best. If the numbers hold—and they almost certainly will not—Super Bowl XLVIII will stand as the least-watched NFL championship tilt in seven years.)

Given the pasting Seattle gave Denver—the Seahawks had already posted 22 unanswered points by halftime, and things would only go downhill from there—it’s no surprise that the ratings suffered as the night went on. (And on. And on…) While some 107 million people were tuned in for the first half-hour, deliveries dropped to 89.6 million by the middle of the third quarter. By the time NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Seahawks’ owner Paul Allen, “only” 46.2 million fans were still tuned in.

After years of relative nail-biters—NBC in 2012 set the all-time ratings record (111.3 million viewers) with the superb Giants-Patriots rematch—Sunday’s much-hyped matchup between the league’s most unstoppable offensive and immovable defense turned out to be a dud. (So stymied were Peyton Manning and company that Denver did not move the chains until there was 10:13 remaining in the first half.)

In the closing minutes of the third quarter, Seattle had put together a 38-0 lead on Russell Wilson’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse. At that point, unless you were a Seahawks booster or simply a huge fan of Peyton Manning Face, there was little sense in sticking with the game.

While Super Bowl XXXV was an aesthetically displeasing affair (Baltimore demoralized the Giants 34-7), in terms of the final point spread, last night’s game was the most one-sided since Dallas whupped the Bills 52-17 in the Rose Bowl back in January 1993. The all-time biggest scoring discrepancy was achieved in 1990, when San Francisco pounded Denver 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV.

Final live-plus-same-day ratings will be issued this afternoon. Early estimates for Fox’s postgame airing of a special Prince-enhanced episode of New Girl put the show’s deliveries at 25.8 million viewers and an 11.1 in the dollar demo. While Brooklyn Nine-Nine largely aired outside of prime time (between 10:54 p.m. and 11:25 p.m. EST), the show still managed to draw 14.8 million viewers and a 6.7 rating—or more than four times what it usually manages in its Tuesday night time slot.