Super Bowl Declared King of the Ratings

The Super Bowl is almost always a massive ratings getter, one of the reasons they have multi-million dollar ads played in the States. This time around, the Supre Bowl actually was the highest rated show ever in the United States, and the second highest rated show ever in Canada. EVER. I am not talking about this year (which being one month in wouldn't be overly impressive) or the last few years but the highest watched show since it was deemed important to record ratings. It beat out the Series Finale of MASH which aired in 1983. I am quite shocked to hear the record lasted that long and also sort of shocked to know this was the show that held that record. I knew this particular game was going to draw a crowd, but I doubt anyone would have made the claims this would be the most watched show ever. Of course, retrospect allows things to become a little more clear and now, I can see why this show did so well.

There has been talk that this show proves that broadcast television is not dead. There had been a fear that television was beginning to lose out to the internet and all its video streaming goodness. I'm sure the 'on-demand' capabilities of the web will continue to make it a popular way to be entertained, but I also don't think anyone was seriously considering piling the dirt on cable television. At the same time, I don't necessarily think this large rating can be the sign that television will be begin to draw enormous ratings thus filling obscene amounts of advertising revenue into the pockets of television executives. I do think the massive rating does show the factors that need to be in place for future large rating victories.

First of all, I feel the economy probably plays a big role in a record setting rating this year. Despite governments and banks trying to convince us the recession has left town, the reality is there are still many people without job thus several people with rather tight budgets. This means that people are going to turn to cheaper forms of entertainment. Now, the Super Bowl isn't necessarily free because many end up paying for cable to watch it. But the Super Bowl was also on network television which essentially means anyone with 'rabbit ears' (antennas, because actual rabbit ears won't work and it would be kind of gross to stick those on your television) could access the game, which then would make it free. Essentially, the game could reach those who do fling cash to cable providers and those who are not in the financial place to use money in that way. Either way, monthly cable can still be cheaper than a night out enjoying other forms of entertainment (for example, beer at the bar is far more expensive than at the store). I would think the tighter wallets would be a big reason for people to decide to stay home, thus a higher amount of people watching TV.

Of course, I don't think television executives can or want to keep the economy in a slump, thus it won't be the reason for great ratings forever. I think, the best reason the Super Bowl garnered a great rating was because it was an event. 'Event TV' is what is going to draw ratings. I think, sporting events are one of the television programs that are safe from the video streaming of the internet. The draw of event television is that you can have a bunch of friends over and witness something special or rare. Something you can enjoy with company and have a wild time together. I can't see too many people wanting to huddle around their computer screen with 7 or more buddies. In this case, I'd say sporting events that attract crowds are safe from the internet.

I also think Event television is something you want to see live. I find streaming from the internet can still be a little slow and isn't as smooth as television. This would be another big reason that people turned to the TV instead. You wanted to witness the Super Bowl live and not a day later via download. This is the same reason I am sure the Lost Finale or any other major 'in' show will do great ratings, because it will be perceived as an event that you want to see 'live.' If something is big enough, people won't want to risk going into work the next day and revealing they missed out. Or even worse, risk the chance of having the event spoiled for you.

I am sure the better question is, what made Sunday's game come off as an event that a huge portion of North America had to watch? After all, both teams came from smaller markets, which usually means for a less watched game (which is a reason why networks weren't big fans of the Jays back to back World Series appearances). My guess, Hurricane Katrina. No, I don't think people were hoping for the natural disaster to make a return and wipe out a whole stadium. I do think, people really got attached to the 'underdog' story of the New Orleans Saints, and were still very sympathetic to what happen to the people in that city 4 years ago. People like happy endings, and the Super Bowl provided the possibility of that. Plus it helps the game was really good, so a lot of people decided to stick to the end.

I think, it will be interesting to see how long this record holds. I am sure executives are hoping for another chance to repeat this success in the very near future. When it does happen, I guarantee it will be event television, and something the majority of us will not want to risk missing out on.