While Super Bowl LII was a compelling contest from start to finish that will likely go down as a classic, the NFL’s annual finale ultimately followed the league’s year-long trend and finished with decreased ratings from the year prior.
Super Bowl LII posted a 47.7 rating/70 share in metered markets, according to early numbers, a decrease of 3 percent over last year’s come-from-behind New England Patriots win over the Atlanta Falcons. The game averaged 103.4 million viewers on NBC, 106 million with streaming included, according to the network. That marks the least-watched Super Bowl in 10 years.
This year’s game had offense galore (the Patriots became the only team in NFL history to lose a game in which they posted 600 yards of offense), great catches, controversial plays and fourth-quarter drama. But in a season where NFL ratings were down significantly for a second straight year, even the biggest TV event of the year saw a ratings dip.
Things certainly didn’t crater. The Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 underdog win over the Patriots still appears to be the eighth highest-rated Big Game of all-time. But the top five highest-rated Super Bowls all have occurred within the last eight years, making this game the lowest-rated since Super XLIV when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in a game that earned a 46.4 rating.
With the Patriots going for what would have been a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title and the Eagles starved for their first in franchise history, the game improved by 9 percent compared to the last time the two teams faced off in a Super Bowl in early 2005.
For overall viewers, it looks like the Patriots 2015 win over the Seattle Seahawks will remain the most-watched Super Bowl ever. That game garnered a whopping 114.4 million viewers. The Super Bowl audience has surpassed 100 million every year since 2006
While this year’s Super Bowl ratings will end up being lower than the last time NBC had the game (Patriots/Seahawks in 2015), the network can at least claim a highlight in its post-Super Bowl programming. Sunday night’s This Is Us episode posted an 8.4 rating among adults 18-49, a 16.2 rating overall and 25.7 million viewers. The family drama, which finally revealed how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) died, bested last year’s airing of 24 following the Super Bowl on Fox by 60 percent. It was the top-rated post-Super Bowl show since 2012.
In a year marked by nearly double-digit ratings decreases in the regular season and dipping playoff numbers, Super Bowl LII was a great game but not a panacea for the multiple issues facing America’s most popular sport.