Thursday, February 15, 2024

Another Super Bowl Ratings Explainer

In this new era of TV audience measurement it can be difficult, if not impossible, to understand and contextualize all of the numbers coming out and figure out what exactly it all means. The Super Bowl is no exception to this, and due to the size of its audience and its influence on the culture, we see more ratings discussion about this one game than probably anything else on TV (maybe WWE aside).

Paulsen over at Sports Media Watch put together a great article "What is the Most-Watched Super Bowl" which dives into some of the measurement changes and ratings nuances over the years, and I definitely recommend giving it a read to see just how difficult it is to truly figure out what the most-watched Super Bowl of all-time is. Here, though, I want to limit the scope to just the last 8 years of Super Bowl ratings and explain where these numbers are coming from.

Streaming Viewership

Super Bowl XLVI back in Feb. 2012 was the first to have a reported streaming figure with NBC reporting 380,000 streaming viewers. Since then, Super Bowl streaming has grown every year with last year's game averaging 7 million streams. Paramount broke precedence this year by not reporting a streaming figure for CBS's broadcast this year, though I'm told it is in the realm of slightly below 8 million.

There are several things to note about these numbers though. First, these are all "total number of streams,"essentially a Household count, rather than actual total individual viewers. NBC was the first report a streaming figure based on total viewers for Super Bowl LVI back in 2022 (11.2 million), but they also provided the total streams count (6.0 million) as a comparable metric to previous years.

The second thing to note is that some streaming viewership is included in the linear viewership reported by Nielsen. If the stream contains the same national ad-load in the same order as the linear broadcast, Nielsen will automatically include that streaming viewership in the linear totals. Any streams with dynamic-ad-insertion (DAI) do not have their streaming viewership captured by Nielsen. Paramount+ and FOX Sports streaming both have their viewership fully captured by Nielsen for CBS and FOX respectively while Peacock's viewership is not included in NBC's.

20203,400,000Some streaming included in linear total
20215,700,000Some streaming included in linear total
20226,000,000No streaming included in linear total
20237,000,000All streaming included in linear total

For the 2020 Super Bowl, FOX had an initial reported linear audience of 99.905 million viewers, FOX Deportes had an audience of 757,000, and total streams were reported at 3.4 million. Altogether this is a 104.1 million total audience delivery (TAD) though FOX reported only a 102.1 million TAD across FOX, FOXD, and streaming. With this it can be deduced that about 2 million streams were included in the linear audience and 1.4 million were not. 

In 2021, CBS had an initial reported linear audience of 91.629 million, the Spanish simulcast on ESPN Deported had 647,000, and total streams were 5.7 million. Altogether this places the expected TAD at around 98 million though CBS reported it as 96.4 million. Again, it can be deduced that around 1.6 million streams were included in the linear total while 4.1 million were not.

In 2022, none of the reported 6.0 million streams (11.2 million streamers) were captured within NBC's linear totals, so that viewership can be summed with the NBC linear number and the Spanish simulcast for a TAD. I prefer to use the 6.0 million to be comparable to previous years.

In 2023, all of FOX's 7 million streams were included within their linear reported totals, and in 2024, all of CBS's streaming viewership was included within their linear totals.

Out-of Home

It's hard to avoid the out-of-home (OOH) discourse on Ratings Twitter and for good reason! Nothing before has ever really contributed as much to TV ratings growth as OOH inclusion has. Nielsen first began separately measuring OOH in September 2016 using their new portable people meter (PPM) which was able to viewership at bars & restaurants as well as panelist viewing at other people's homes.

When it was first rolled out, it took a couple days to get the OOH viewership, so it wasn't able to be included in the initial ratings releases, but by September 2020 Nielsen had gotten the methodology up to snuff enough to have the OOH included in the next-day reported numbers. 2017-2020 Super Bowls each have an additional OOH viewership figure that needs to be added to their initially reported totals while 2021-2024 Super Bowls already have the OOH added in.


Historical Total Audience Deliveries

Using all of this data, total audience deliveries - inclusive of the linear telecasts, Spanish simulcasts, OOH, and streaming - can be figured out for the last 8 Super Bowls in a way that is an apples:apples comparison. Here are those comparisons:

202299.1801.91 6.0107.09
202195.2070.647 5.799.70
2020101.32412.980.757 3.4115.08
201998.47712.000.473 2.6113.55
2018103.47113.860.543 2.02119.89
2017111.31712.630.650 1.72126.31

Unique Viewers

The last major thing to discuss is the "unique" viewers metric which is usually reported for the Super Bowl in the network press releases. It is usually described in press releases as the "unduplicated viewership," "total reach," or the "number of viewers that watched all or part of the broadcast."

Historically, this metric has been reported at the 6-minute level, meaning that it was the total number of viewers that watched at least 6 minutes of the broadcast. Starting in 2022 though, NBC switched the metric to report it at the 1-minute level which gave them a higher number (as it includes people who watched at least 1 minute but less than 6 minutes which would not be included in the 6-minute Reach). 

Since NBC's change, both FOX in 2023 and CBS in 2024 have followed suit and reported the 1-minute Reach for their Super Bowls. Just keep in mind that these cannot be compared in an apples:apples way to the reported unduplicated totals in 2020 or before. 

In my Super Bowl Historical Ratings chart, I use the 6 minute Reach for all years in order to keep everything comparable. That would be 151.3 million in 2022, 164.2 million in 2023, and 179.7 million 2024.

YearReported UnduplicatedMetric
2017172 million6 min
2018159.1 million6 min
2019149 million6 min
2020148.5 million6 min
2021not reported-
2022167 million1 min
2023183.6 million1 min
2024202.4 million1 min

No comments:

Post a Comment