NBC will try a completely different strategy for its lead-out to next year’s Super Bowl. Instead of airing an episode of a new or existing series behind Super Bowl LVI, the network will immediately flip back to Winter Olympics coverage.
The 2022 Super Bowl takes place on February 13, which places it right in the middle of the Beijing Winter Olympics (which will be held February 4 through 20). That marks the first time a network has aired both right at the same time, and as a result, NBC’s strategists have decided the best way to hold on to that live Super Bowl audience is to keep them engaged with more live sporting events.
“We have the benefit and the luxury of being right in the middle of the Olympics and we have a commitment to air live Olympics,” said Frances Berwick, chairman, entertainment networks, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “Given the time difference, it will be full on prime games for us as we come out of the Super Bowl.” (When the Super Bowl ends at around 10:30 p.m. ET, it will be 11:30 a.m. Monday in Beijing.)
“I think the fortunate position that we’re in is to have the benefit of those 18 days of the Olympics plus the Super Bowl as these immense promotional platforms to promote our new shows, too,” Berwick added. “So we’re in a really unique situation in that regard.”
That means for the first time in 46 years, there won’t be a series lead-out of the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, CBS ran the series premiere of “The Equalizer” after Super Bowl LV, garnering 20.4 million viewers for the Queen Latifah series. The last time NBC had the Super Bowl, in 2018, it aired a special “This Is Us” episode — featuring that infamous deadly crockpot. It averaged 27 million viewers. And in 2015, NBC aired the first half of a “The Blacklist” two-parter, attracting 25.7 million viewers.
The last time a network followed the Super Bowl with another sporting event was in 1976, when CBS aired the Phoenix Open golf tournament after Super Bowl X. In the 1980s, the Super Bowl lead-out became a mythical place to try and launch new series with the largest audiences possible. But by the 1990s, with most of those newbies having failed, the networks switched to super-sized episodes of fan favorites like “Friends.” These days, the post-Super Bowl selections have been a bit all over the map, as schedulers realize that those post-Super Bowl audiences are mostly borrowed, not long-lasting viewers.
“We want to be able to maximize the the coverage of the Olympics while it’s going on and especially when we’re in full live events,” Berwick said. “Which, given the 13 hour time difference with Beijing we will be post-Super Bowl, I cannot overstate I feel very good about our our ability to maximize the promotion for the new shows and the entertainment shows, in that embarrassment of riches across the Super Bowl and the 18 days of the Olympic platform.”