Super Bowl Ratings Fall From Last Year, as 111.3 Million Watched the Patriots’ Overtime Win on Fox

Fifth most-watched of all time

Tom Brady's big comeback wasn't enough to top Fox's Super Bowl ratings from 2014.
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The first overtime in Super Bowl history wasn’t enough to jump-start this year’s Super Bowl ratings. An average of 111.3 million viewers watched Tom Brady lead the New England Patriots back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime, 34-28, according to Nielsen’s fast national ratings.

That number, which makes it the No. 5 most-watched Super Bowl of all time, falls short of last year’s game, which was televised on CBS and drew 111.9 viewers. The record-holder remains the 2015 Super Bowl on NBC, which was watched by an average of 114.4 million total viewers.  Fox’s last Super Bowl telecast in 2014 is the No. 2 most-watched Super Bowl with 112.2 million viewers.

Fox said the game averaged 113.7 million viewers across all platforms: Fox, Spanish-language sports network Fox Deportes, and Fox Sports Go.

The game’s livestream on Fox Sports Go attracted an average of 1.7 million viewers per minute, up from CBS’ Super Bowl livestream last year, which averaged 1.4 million viewers per minute. Fox Sports’ livestream of the Super Bowl was unauthenticated (i.e., no cable or satellite login was required) and for the first time, it featured local ad integration, with more than 170 Fox affiliates programming the same ads for linear and digital broadcast.

Brands spent close to $5 million per spot to advertise in this year’s game. The first overtime in Super Bowl history added an estimated $20 million to the network’s Super Bowl ad revenue windfall, which was already going to be “the highest revenue day in Fox history,” Bruce Lefkowitz, evp of ad sales at Fox Networks Group told Adweek prior to the game.

Lefkowitz said “98 percent” of Super Bowl ad units sold bundled Fox’s linear feed, Fox Sports Go and, for the first time, Fox Deportes.

During the game, 65 different brands ran 104 spots for 49.9 minutes of dedicated ad time, giving Fox an estimated ad revenue of $509.6 million for the game itself (not including revenue from the six and a half hours of pregame, postgame or 24: Legacy), according to iSpot.tv.

Update: During a 21st Century Fox earnings call Monday afternoon, executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch confirmed that the Super Bowl powered “Fox’s first half-billion revenue day.”

Second update: After the Super Bowl, 24: Legacy, Fox’s attempt to relaunch the franchise without Kiefer Sutherland, was watched by 17.6 million viewers, and averaged a 6.1 rating in adults 18-49. That was well behind  last year’s post-Super Bowl edition of Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which drew 21.1 million viewers, and averaged a 7.9 demo rating.

Two years ago, The Blacklist was watched by 26.5 million (and did an 8.7 in 18-49), while New Girl drew 25.8 million (and an 11.1 demo rating) for Fox in 2014.

Last month, Fox Sports president, COO and executive producer Eric Shanks said Super Bowl ratings have “become a little bit bulletproof” and are more reliant on the star power and matchups rather than the quality of the game itself. Fox’s 2014 Super Bowl telecast had then-record ratings, even though the Seattle Seahawks blew out the Denver Broncos, 43-8.

Even so, Shanks told Adweek he was still going to be nervous about this year’s ratings. “The worry is only, are you going to be pleasantly surprised? Because I don’t think anybody worries that the Super Bowl is not going to be massive as far as ratings go. It’s just, are you going to wake up and be pleasantly surprised and is everybody going to be high-fiving because A) we did a good job with the broadcast and B) the viewers rewarded us and the viewers rewarded the game?” he said.

Speaking with Adweek last week, Lefkowitz had suggested that the Dallas Cowboys might have added around 5 million additional viewers to the game, but he didn’t think the team’s absence kept any brands other than Texas-based companies out of the game. “Matchups move the needle more in the regular season than the Super Bowl,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think that if you had the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl—and theoretically it would do 5 million more viewers than it will now—that somebody who was thinking about [advertising] would have said, ‘If it does 113 million, I’m not going to buy it. But if it does 118 million …’” he said.

Next year’s Super Bowl will air on NBC, which will attempt to beat its own Super Bowl audience record.