When the ratings for Sunday’s Super Bowl rolled in, they were likely met with some disappointment in the National Football League’s front office.
Conversely, media critics and researchers weren’t surprised. Ratings for NFL games have been down all year.
Fox’s broadcast of the big game drew 111.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen data released by the network on Monday. It was the smallest audience for the NFL’s championship in four years.
To be clear, garnering 111.3 viewers is an impressive feat when you consider our entertainment options. With counter programming such as Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl or the Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl, it’s easy to understand why some people simply turned the channel.
It may be hard to understand why so many chose not to watch the Super Bowl. After all, it was one of the greatest games in NFL history. It had an exciting finish. It had the first-ever overtime in championship history. The winning team came back from a huge deficit to win.
Why did so many people turn away?
Some claim the game was, well, boring. So, they may have turned away early. When you consider that most people tune in before the game kicks off to view the pomp and patriotism, they were probably watching with an expectation that the game would be exciting.
Instead, the first half was a blowout, probably leaving many people to lose interest.
Some claim the lower numbers are a reflection of the scandals that continue to plague the NFL. Whether it’s concussions or domestic violence, some viewers are turning away in protest.
But don’t blame social media. The fact is the social media ratings were worse than Nielsen’s TV ratings. Yes, users were actively posting updates about the big game on big platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But even those numbers were down from previous championships.
For example, some 60 million Facebook users created 200 million images, comments and reactions (i.e., Likes) during the Super Bowl, many of which were posted during the Pepsi Half Time Show with Lady Gaga. That’s down 25 percent from last year, when 65 million people created 265 million posts.
Twitter users were far less active than the previous year. According to Nielsen, about 3.8 million U.S.-based users created just under 17 million tweets during the game. That’s a drop of about 33% from last year’s championship, which generated a little more than 25 million tweets.
In fact, Twitter’s response to the lower numbers was interesting. They noted that users generated over 27 million “global” tweets about the game.
Rather than respond to the decline in activity, they simply posted the numbers with highlights from important moments during the game.
You can see more on those numbers and tweets at blog.twitter.com.
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.