Of Course The Super Bowl Ratings Dropped

The big game had a lot going against it.

Patrick Mahomes spent the better part of Sunday hitting his receivers in their facemasks with deftly thrown footballs. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was well on his way to uber football deification.

And as the third quarter melted into the fourth, it was clear to anyone watching.

This Super Bowl was horrible.

It may have been an overabundance of chicken wings, but there was a gut feeling I had that we were about to get carried away with the Brady love.

Brady putting an exclamation mark on his career was certainly the best part of the day. But even that came without any sense of drama. 

Granted, his seven titles are undeniable. Much like the hellscape that is the Baby Shark melody, his 10 appearances in the Super Bowl are an accomplishment we will be hearing about for years.

But the rest of the day was more Super Bowl Lite. The pomp was nonexistent. The fans were scattered around the stadium, which was both terrifying as we are still in the middle of a pandemic and underwhelming from an atmosphere perspective.

So, of course, the ratings were down this year. The game that saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, was watched by 96.4 million people across TV and streaming, according to CNN Business. That’s down from the 102M that took in the big, pre-pandemic game last year.

CBS does tout that more people did choose to go the streaming route this time around.

“CBS said Sunday's championship was the most live-streamed NFL game, averaging 5.7 million viewers per minute, up 65% from last year's Super Bowl. It was also the first NFL game to deliver more than 1 billion total streaming minutes,” ESPN states.

Sportico points out that Super Bowl viewership is down year-over-year since 2015, which saw a high of 114.4M viewers.

An increase of streaming and a majority of games that haven’t been all that competitive play into the decrease in interest. The latter was assuredly the case on Sunday when Tampa Bay played with the urgency of a dad trying to get up from the couch on Sunday night.

People are just watching far less network television, period. While the Super Bowl is indeed that singular universal event that brings a major portion of people flocking to watch it, that’s becoming less true as the years tick on and the opportunities to find entertainment elsewhere increase.

“If Sunday night’s game was demonstrably short on theatrics, the erosion of traditional TV usage certainly didn’t do CBS or the NFL any favors,” Anthony Crupi writes for Sportico. “According to Nielsen data, overall broadcast TV deliveries were down 20% through last Thursday, as CBS/NBC/ABC/Fox have averaged 16.9 million viewers per night, down from 21.1 million in the year-ago period.”

A perfect storyline pitting the youthful prodigy against the sage maestro didn’t play out as expected. A pandemic continues to rage, robbing so many of certainty but this gala event of the festive nature that makes it a joyous occasion during normal times.

Much like Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl, we should have seen this coming.