There is nothing in the media landscape comparable to the Super Bowl. Simply put it is the most watched television event of the year. In fact, 11 of the last 12 Super Bowls have delivered an average audience of 100+ million viewers. By comparison, the most watched first-season primetime program this season has averaged 5.8 million viewers.
Helping to sustain the Super Bowl’s audience has been streaming video. Last year Super Bowl LVI on NBCU averaged 112.3 million viewers, a 16% increase from the previous year. Streaming on various platforms accounted for 11.2 million of the total. The previous year Super Bowl LV televised on CBS averaged 5.7 million streaming viewers. The last time Fox FOXA had the rights to the big game was Super Bowl LIV in 2020, the average streaming audience that year was 3.4 million viewers. In fact, every year since streaming was measured (Super Bowl XLVI in 2011) its viewing has increased.
A report on NFL viewing sources from Nielsen NLSN found that for last year’s Super Bowl, set-top boxes/antennas accounted for 61% of the total audience, followed by out-of-home (22%), smart TVs (8%) and internet connected devices (7%). The percentages were based on total viewers.
For Men 18-34 the breakout in viewing sources was different; only 40% used set-top-boxes/antennas, there was a 38% share for out-of-home viewing, a 10% share for viewing on Smart TVs and a 7% share used internet connected devices. In comparing the 2021 with 2022 NFL regular season, there was a migration in viewing away from set-top-boxes/antennas to smart TVs and internet connected devices. The declining use of set top boxes is indicative of the impact cord-cutting is having on viewer behaviour.
Despite its growing usage, latency remains an issue when streaming the Super Bowl. Jed Corenthal, CMO, Phenix, says, “I anticipate 15 million people will stream this year’s game, however, everyone who streams the game will have significant latency or delays – we anticipate anywhere from 30-60 seconds behind the field of play. Any interaction – chatting, texting, notifications – will potentially ruin the viewing experience. Imagine 30 seconds to go in the game and Patrick Mahomes throws the winning TD, but before you see the play, you get a text from your friend who already saw it – this is inexcusable and doesn’t have to happen.” This year’s Super Bowl will be available on FoxSports.com among other streaming providers.
A recently released survey of 1,000 respondents from Amdocs DOX found that this year 22% of Super Bowl viewers planned to stream the game, which would roughly double the audience from last year. Nearly half (49%) said they plan on watching the game using set-top boxes. With the game on broadcast television, another 10% said they would watch the Super Bowl via an over-the-air antenna.
The Amdocs survey also found that 58% of viewers were interested in having the metaverse create a virtual State Farm Stadium, the site of the Super Bowl. Respondents also expressed an interest in a 360-degree view with more interactivity. About one-in-five were interested in the use of augmented reality for Rihanna’s half-time show.
Helping to boost online viewing this past NFL season was Amazon Prime Video’s inaugural season of Thursday Night Football. Amazon had exclusive rights to 15 NFL games, Nielsen reported an average audience of 9.58 million viewers (including out-of-home and over-the-air viewing). According to Amazon’s first-party viewership data, Thursday Night Football averaged 11.3 million viewers, comparable to the streaming audience from last year’s Super Bowl.
The NFL will be streaming more games next season. In December, the league struck a deal with Alphabet’s YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels for the exclusive rights to stream NFL Season Ticket. Formerly on DirecTV, the package includes all out-of-market Sunday regular-season NFL games broadcast on Fox and CBS. In addition, with the new NFL media rights agreement with NBC, CBS, ABC/ESPN and Fox allows for games to be distributed via television and streaming (eg, Paramount+, Peacock).
Nielsen’s monthly Gauge Report for December 2022 found streaming accounted for 38.1% share of all TV usage, a figure greater than either cable (30.9% share) or broadcast television (24.7% share). Streaming shares have been steadily climbing and as more live premium sporting events become available it should continue to increase.