Defense may win championships, but America’s eyeballs, it seems, are a tougher sell.
The lowest scoring Super Bowl in history was a disappointment for broadcaster CBS, drawing a 44.9 overnight rating, according to Sports Business Journal. The punt-filled defensive slog between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams produced a 5.2% drop-off from last year’s title game (47.7) in the first round of ratings and was the worst initial figure for a Super Bowl since the Pittsburgh Steelers’ last-minute triumph over the Arizona Cardinals in February 2009.
One substantial factor in the decline – in addition to the dearth of offense and tepidly received halftime show – was an extreme drop off in New Orleans, a normally robust football market where many boycotted the broadcast as a result of the blown call in the NFC championship game that cost their hometown Saints a place in Sunday night’s tilt.
Instead, thousands of locals turned out for a protest in the French Quarter, while the game earned a 26.1 overnight rating in the city (compared to 53.0 last year), the lowest of any of the major TV markets that factor into the overnights and the worst ever in New Orleans.
It was a rare down note in a season where NFL ratings were up across the board after two years of decline: indeed, the panic-strewn reports of the NFL’s demise have been overstated. The league remains a national obsession and this year’s influx of new stars like the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the Giants’ Saquon Barkley and the Browns’ Baker Mayfield fueled a TV resurgence. In 2018, 46 of the 50 most-watched programs on American television last year were NFL games and Sunday night’s contest will almost positively be the year’s most-watched show.
The game remains one of the last remnants of monoculture in an increasingly fragmented media landscape: the last nine Super Bowls rank among the 10 most-watched programs in American history.