Super Bowl Sunday is usually a record-setting day, whether you’re watching on TV or interacting on social media.
Last year’s Super Bowl drew 114 million viewers, setting the record as the most-watched television show in U.S. history. Not surprisingly, the 2014 Super Bowl was a close second with more than 112 million viewers.
In fact, in the history of U.S. television viewing, only seven shows have surpassed the 100 million-viewer mark. Six of those shows are from the last decade, all of them Super Bowls (2010 through 2015).
The only non-Super Bowl show to exceed 100 million viewers was the “M*A*S*H” finale in 1983, with 106 million viewers.
Ratings and shares are often the highest on Super Bowl Sunday. The rating, or the percentage of people in the U.S. with a TV who watch a particular program, was 47.5 for the 2015 Super Bowl. Last year’s game also earned a 71 share. In other words, 71 percent of people who were watching television were tuned to the Super Bowl.
These are some of the highest ratings and shares since the Super Bowls of the 1980s.
Why the increase in viewers, ratings and shares over the last few years?
Consider this: In 1983 during the “M*A*S*H” finale, we had fewer media options distracting us. In 2016, we have hundreds of TV channels. More importantly, we have social media.
Sure, the population has grown, but not enough to account for the difference in viewers between 1983 and 2015.
While people were helping to set the most-watched-TV-program record during the 2015 game, they were also on Facebook and Twitter. There were more than 265 million posts, likes and comments on Facebook (over 65 million active users), and more than 28 million tweets. This set Super Bowl records for both platforms.
Commercials and Music
There’s something for everyone during the Super Bowl.
Many viewers look forward to Super Bowl commercials. Companies will shell out an average of $4.9 million for a 30-second ad in 2016. These companies have figured out that they can get viewers to talk about those expensive ads on social media, long after 30 seconds are up.
Half of last year’s commercials included a hashtag, encouraging online chatter about commercials and products.
If you used the commercial break to load up on nachos, only to return to find out everyone is talking about the best commercial ever, head to YouTube. Most brands will post their commercials to YouTube before the ad airs during the big game.
If you’re a music lover, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that social media use spikes during the half-time show. Last year’s show with Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, and Missy Elliot attracted the most viewers in half-time history with more than 118 million viewers (more than the game itself).
The half-time show streamed live on YouTube, generated 3 million tweets and Facebook said more than 1 million people per minute were posting updates about the performance.
Super Bowl 50 will certainly be one of the biggest television shows ever.
Will it be the biggest on social media? That’s up to you.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.