It was a great game, but it didn’t produce quite-so-Super ratings.
Sunday’s 24-21 victory by the New England Patriots over the Philadelphia Eagles on Fox settled for the third smallest Super Bowl audience in the past 10 years and the lowest demo ratings on record for pro football’s championship game.
According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen (adjusted for time-zone differences), Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla., averaged 86.1 million viewers and a 33.2 rating in adults 18-49 — down 4% and 7% respectively vs. last year’s Patriots-Carolina Panthers matchup on CBS (89.8 million viewers and a 35.7 rating in the key demo).
The annual game is far and away the season’s No. 1-rated telecast, although in adults 18-49 and other demo categories, this year’s preliminary results stand as the lowest in at least 13 years.Relatively modest tune-in is somewhat of a surprise given the competitive nature of the game and the first appearance in 24 years for the Eagles, who have a solid national following.
One reason for the strong but not super ratings may have been the regional nature of the game, which featured two teams from the Northeast separated by roughly 300 miles. Also, for all their success, the Patriots remain a workmanlike club with few marquee stars or prima donnas.
Other low audiences over the years have included Northeastern matchups such as the 1992 game between Washington and Buffalo (79.6 million) and the 2001 contest pitting Baltimore against the New York Giants (84.3 million).
Another factor in the year-to-year ratings decline might have been the size of the host city, which typically contributes huge ratings to the national average.
Even though Jacksonville generated the highest overnight household rating of Nielsen’s 55 metered-markets Sunday (58.9/77 share), that repped only 360,000 households. Last year’s game on CBS got a bigger boost from the host city of Houston, where its 51.4 rating/73 translated to about 975,000 homes.
Philadelphia was the No. 2-rated market Sunday with a 56.0/77 (roughly 1.6 million households), followed by a 53.1/78 for Boston (1.3 million homes).
Game didn’t see any kind of drop-off at halftime, which featured a concert performance by Paul McCartney. In fact, the audience grew with each full half-hour, starting with a 31.6 rating among adults 18-49 at 7 p.m. ET and peaking with a 34.8 in the 9:30 half-hour.
Also for Fox, its 24-minute postgame show (10:20-10:44 p.m. ET) averaged a 21.6 rating in adults 18-49 and about 50 million viewers overall. “The Simpsons” followed at 10:44 with an 11.2 demo rating — its best in 12 years — and 23.1 million viewers overall for a 32-minute, firstrun seg.
And a special preview of animated laffer “American Dad” averaged a 7.5 rating in 18-49 and 15.1 million viewers from 11:16 to 11:46 p.m. ET. Show won’t bow as a series until May 1.
Meanwhile, TiVo reported the first few seconds of the commercial from GoDaddy.com, which featured a “wardrobe malfunction” of its own, were the most replayed moments of any commercial in the game
A fourth-quarter interception by Patriots linebacker Ted Bruschi that sealed the game for the defending world champions was the most viewed play of the game, according to TiVo.
The highest replayed moments of the game didn’t take place during a commercial or during the game. Thousands of TiVo subscribers replayed the moment when a phone number was displayed on screen that viewers could use to cast their own votes for the Super Bowl MVP.
The results were based on 10,000 anonymous TiVo households.
Elsewhere in primetime Sunday, the other nets were battling for small crumbs. ABC placed second, led by repeats of “Desperate Housewives” at 10 (prelim 3.5/9 in 18-49, 9.4 million viewers overall) and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” at 9 (prelim 3.2/6 in 18-49, 8.2 million).