Super Bowl audience down 5% from last year, data show

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Julian Edelman
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. -- MARK J. REBILAS-USA TODAY SPORTS

NEW YORK — Sunday’s Super Bowl victory by the New England Patriots drew 98.2 million viewers on CBS Corp’s US television network, a 5% drop from last year’s game, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings data released on Monday.

The humdrum 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams, the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, marked the second year in a row of ratings declines and the lowest viewership since 2009, following last year’s 7% drop to 103.4 million viewers who watched the Philadelphia Eagles win their first Super Bowl.

“It suffered from not being a very good game,” Patrice Cucinello, a director at Fitch Ratings credit agency, said of the game that featured just one touchdown. “A 13 to 3 defeat with the Rams barely putting up a show didn’t really help the numbers.”

An additional 2.6 million people, on average, were also watching the game on computers or mobile devices at any given time this year, CBS said.

A number of factors likely hurt television ratings this year.

“The decline can probably be explained by the fact that this was a fairly unappealing matchup, then also a boring game,” said Victor Matheson, a sports economics professor at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

There is also Patriots fatigue.

“Everyone outside of New England is tired of seeing Brady and Belichick in the Super Bowl,” Matheson said of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who together have reached nine Super Bowls since 2002.

The Rams, too, are “just not a very popular team yet,” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing analyst at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco. And “nobody was terribly excited about the halftime show.”

Despite the second year of declining Super Bowl numbers, average viewership rose 5% during this year’s regular NFL season. It also remains by far the single most watched American event of the year, making it a gold mine for advertisers.

The game was watched in an average 49.3 million homes, and 67% of US homes with televisions in use were tuned to the telecast.

Ad spots averaged $5.2 million for a 30-second slot this year.

“They are still able to command higher and higher amounts of money for their advertising, because sports are one of the last things we watch live, which makes it much harder for people to avoid the commercials,” Matheson said.

CBS is estimated to have generated $382 million in advertising revenue, the third-largest amount in the game’s 53-year history, according to research firm Kantar Media.

Meanwhile, Patriots returned home to a hero’s welcome on Monday, a day after beating the Rams in a defensive slugfest to win another Super Bowl title.

The Patriots’ plane, with a now-out-of-date tail that has five Vince Lombardi Trophy images on it, landed in Warwick, Rhode Island, before the team drove 40 minutes to their stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Patriots quarterback Brady and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Julian Edelman were not present as both were at Disney World in Florida.

Yet that did not dampen the mood among the more than 1,000 fans on hand to celebrate the latest chapter of a Patriots dynasty that began 17 years ago.

Chants of “We’re still here!” — a rallying cry the team adopted during its postseason run — filled the air outside the stadium as members of the team exited buses that sported “Go Patriots” in bold red letters on the sides.

The sight of the players, head coach Belichick, the architect behind each of the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins, and the sterling silver Vince Lombardi Trophy delighted those who had waited hours for their arrival.

The celebration extended one that began late on Sunday in Atlanta where the Patriots collected a record-tying sixth Super Bowl championship in their 11th appearance in the National Football League’s championship game.

Despite early season struggles that once again raised doubts about whether their dynasty was coming to an end, the Patriots silenced their critics with the win over the Rams.

The celebration is far from over as the Patriots Super Bowl victory parade is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT) on Tuesday. More than one million people attended the team’s last Super Bowl victory parade in 2017. — Reuters