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Superbowl Ratings History -- How Did The 51 Events Do In The Nielsens?

Written in an Advertising Craze by Bridger Cunningham

Image result for super bowl 2015

Football season officially kicks off Thursday, September 7 at 8:30pm EDT in Foxboro, Massachusetts, the New England Patriots' home as the Kansas City Chiefs travel to challenge them on the field.  That means those in the Central timezone unveil your competitive cheer at 7:30pm, folks in the Mountain timezone have just enough time at the end of Happy Hour to grab cheap drinks at 6:30, and folks in the Pacific/Arizona timezones will have to make excuses to escape work early to get to the game at 5:30.  No matter what region football fans reside in, Nielsen has yet to report poorly-rated NFL events.  Games may rate poorly against each other, but competing programming on opposing networks have yet to tackle the NFL in the Nielsen Ratings.

Before speculating how respective teams will stack against each other, let's take a moment and examine America's largest event and 51-year tradition, the Superbowl.  The phenomenal factor behind the Superbowl is it caters to both Football fans, and folks who could care less about sports.  Whether a viewer is engaged in who will take the title or non-fans want to see the latest advertisements and Half-Time show, the Superbowl is THE event in American culture.  Advertisers clamor to debut their sharpest, eye-appealing advertisements for the guaranteed millions of viewers, paying $5.002 million dollars per 30-seconds of advertisement.

So how did the superbowls rank?  First, take a chronological view of the events dating back to 1967.  The comprehensive table is assembled by both proper numbering in Roman Numerals (for those who are Football fans, or have a vintage winding clock in their home), and by plain numeric numbers for readers who need to polish up on an old hat tradition becoming obsolete like cursive.  And after scrolling through the chronological table, peer down below and see the highest to lowest-rated Superbowls which have aired over the last 51 seasons.


HISTORY

So how did an unknown event in 1967 wind up straddled between NBC and CBS featuring a Half-Time show comprised of school bands evolve into a competitive, pay-in MTV-esque star-studded event?  Scroll back through the previous table by color with CBS in red, NBC in blue, ABC in green and FOX in yellow.  NBC housed the rights to air AFL games and CBS held the rights to NFL in the 1966-67.  Both competing networks aired the competition simultaneously in 1967, with CBS edging out NBC.  The following season, CBS aired the competition and rotated years with NBC airing the odd numbers and CBS airing the evens.  This configuration remained intact until burgeoning ABC entered the arena in 1985 with Superbowl XIX (19 for the Roman-Numeral-Impaired).  Incidentally, this was the same ABC returned to 3rd Place after a successful 9-year reign straddling 1st and 2nd Places.

Before 1984, NBC and CBS split the spoils.  Contractual negotiations every 4-8 years designated which networks aired the Superbowl.  Between 1985-91, the rotation equally represented ABC, NBC and CBS rotating the honor.  Then, CBS altered the rotation and grabbed NBC's place in 1992 in exchange for back-to-back 1993 and 1994 airings (and currently the only network to air the Superbowl back-to-back with exclusive coverage).  CBS would take a 9-year break, and NBC scored a touchdown as they scored 4 Superbowls in the 1990's.  ABC took 1995, and FOX jumped into the arena in 1997, marking the youngest network to air the event.  NBC took an 11-year penalty from airing the event from 1998-2009, and coverage remained scattered between CBS, FOX and ABC through 2006.

Then, ABC was punted out of the game after losing all coverage of NFL in 2006.  Remaining years have contractually guaranteed a rotation between CBS, FOX and NBC in equal rotations.  NBC is currently slated to air the 2018 Superbowl from Minneapolis, Minnesota, whose frigid temperatures last iced fans in 1992.  Stadiums selected to house the event often revolve around the sunbelt.  Superbowls have aired between January 11 and February 7 each year, with additional games augmenting the game to fans' delights in recent years.  That dark, icy season calls for moderate-comfortable climate, making cities such as Minneapolis, MN, Detroit, Michigan and East Rutherford, New Jersey less desirable for the millions of fans who clamor to respective towns.  Popular states which benefit from housing America's leading event often include California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Florida.


Do Half-Time Shows Influence The Ratings?

Take a peek at the last column in each table and see America's television tastes revolve.  Earlier seasons featured respective bands, whether from a local University or City, Local High School or heralded military divisions.  Come the mid-70's, the Superbowl took an angle similar to award shows and composed themes and spectacles from producers.  ABC changed the game in 1991's Superbowl XXV (25 for RN-impaired) with trendy New Kids on the Block.  A ratings winner?  Not quite, as the event ranks as the 33rd highest-rated Superbowl in the 51 seasons broadcast.  NKOTB certainly fit the desired demographic, yet how did it fail to attract less viewers than over-50 Diana Ross in Superbowl XXX (30 for the RN-impaired), which still stands as the 14th-highest-rated Superbowl?

The fact remains majority of viewers tune in to watch the game, not the glitzy performers who sing, dance and bare their pasty-covered underteet like Janet Jackson did during the embarrassing Superbowl XXXVIII (38 for RN-impaired) in 2004.  That Half-Time show, featuring Kid-Rock cutting a hole in the American flag and stomping it on the field, displayed an MTV-esque dance number between Jackson and Justin Timberlake which a "wardrobe malfunction" exposed Jackson's pastie-covered breast.  The incident sparked ire from the FCC and garnered scandalous headlines for months.  And if Women's Lib did not teach America anything, Timberlake's actions seemed deliberate as men know to keep their hands away from that region on ladies, even in a dance number.  How did this embarrassing $h--show rank among the 51 Superbowl entries?  It ranks 37th.

Not all flashy MTV messes embarrass, as Katy Perry bought into the game in 2015 for Glendale, AZ's Superbowl XLIX (49 for RN-impaired).  Her splashy act engaged in colorful, eye-popping visuals and paid tribute to the franchise's roots by inviting the Arizona State University Marching Band to perform with her.  Did Katy generate the ratings for the currently 4th-highest showing in Superbowl history.  It would be better to place bets on the New England Patriots' stellar performances in the 2010's.

Record Setters

Who houses the most Superbowl championships?  The Pittsburgh Steelers, who last won the game in 2009 in Superbowl XXXLIII (43 for RN-Impaired), hold the record of 6 championships.  The New England Patriots house the record with the most appearances at 9, with 4 victories, the last being their most-recent appearance in 2017's Superbowl LI (51, sigh).  States holding records for housing the event have Florida leading with 14, California with 11, and  Louisiana with 9.

Sources:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_Bowl_broadcasters
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl_I
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_Bowl_halftime_shows
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl