This is an excerpt from Parks Associates' OTT Video Market Tracker, an ongoing service with monthly and quarterly research deliverables, helping companies understand the changing dynamics of the streaming video market. Join us for a webinar on April 5 and learn more! Our perspective is unique, consistent, and has historical context for decades understanding consumer video viewer behaviors and the impact of new technologies on video distribution.
The Super Bowl is the most-watched television event in the United States, attracting millions of viewers each year. The audience numbers for the Super Bowl can have a significant impact on advertising rates, brand recognition and the future of media for new innovations and technologies.
Sizing the Audience
FOX, the broadcaster of Super Bowl LVII this year, averaged 113 million viewers, including 7 million streaming viewers, according to Nielsen. Fox stated that the estimated audience includes Fox and Fox Deportes broadcasts as well as streaming on Fox and the NFL's digital sites. The average Spanish-language audience for the game was 951,000, setting a record for the most-viewed Super Bowl game in the history of Spanish-language cable television. It was also the most popular non-soccer event in the history of Spanish-language cable television.
Notably, overall viewership totals are down since the height of Super Bowl viewing in 2015. Super Bowl XLIX, which featured the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks in 2015, attracted a record 114.4 million viewers. Since that time, cord-cutting has reduced overall pay-TV viewership, impacting total views. That said, Fox confirmed that Super Bowl LVII was the most-streamed Super Bowl in history, with an average of 7 million streams, up 18% from last year (vs. 6 million) and up 103% from FOX's last Super Bowl stream in 2020 (vs. 3.4 million), according to Adobe Analytics. The live streaming audience includes consumption across: the FOX Sports app; FOX.com; the FOX NOW app; NFL digital properties including the NFL mobile app, the NFL Fantasy mobile app, NFL.com, the NFL connected TV app and NFL+ for subscribers.
The Nielsen numbers were released on February 15, 2023, and the NFL released a statement on February 27, 2023 stating that the Super Bowl LVII audience should be 20% higher than what Nielsen reported. According to the NFL, NORC at the University of Chicago conducted a separate survey of 5,189 homes for the big game. The survey reveals that the average minute audience for the game jumps by 20%, from 113 million to 136 million viewers.
Chief Data and Analytics Officer of the NFL, Paul Ballew, stated that additional measurement is required to obtain a complete picture of the total viewership of this special event. The average audience measurement from the NORC study caught our attention. “That was a 20% lift versus the traditional Nielsen measure, and that’s a really, really big number.”
According to Jon Stainer, Nielsen Global Sports Managing Director, “Nielsen has measured Super Bowl viewership for over 50 years, giving us a front-row seat to the vast changes in how and where fans watch the Big Game. We recognize the uniqueness of this media event around group viewing parties, and this additional custom survey helps supplement our audience measurement.”
Accurate viewership measurement remains incredible difficult, across all platforms and broadcasts/streams, even for the most important entertainment event of the year.
Everyone Talks About the Ads
Ben Affleck, Ozzy Osbourne, Matt Damon, Maya Rudolph, Martha Stewart, and the cast of "Breaking Bad" were prominently featured in advertisements during television's most-watched event of the year. According to reports, a 30-second commercial during this year's Super Bowl could cost as much as $7 million, depending on its placement in the broadcast. In a recent Fox earnings call, executive chair Leachan Murdock announced Fox plans to bring in nearly $600 million in revenue from Super Bowl advertising.
Several streaming services also ran advertisements during the Super Bowl. Tubi, which FOX Corporation purchased for $440 million in March 2020, aired a 15-second advertisement following a commercial break that caused millions of viewers to question who is in control of their television or who changed the channel.
Not only did the advertisement confuse game fans, but it went viral immediately after airing. While Tubi did not air the Super Bowl, FOX made valuable use of the integration of the advertisement into a farce broadcast to promote its FAST service. The ad-based streaming market competition is heating up with PlutoTV, Tubi, The Roku Channel, and Amazon’s Freevee ad-based services competing for eyeballs. The ad placement was a victory for Tubi, the second most popular ad-based video service as of Q3 2022.
NFL is Americas Game, and the Super Bowl is its Greatest Asset
The NFL is the most popular sport in the United States. The most recent consumer survey data from Parks Associates indicates that 68% of internet households that watch sports watch NFL games throughout the season. Selling the broadcast media rights to the highest bidder generates billions of dollars for the NFL. Since the mid-1980s, NFL media rights have increased twelvefold, according to pledgesports.org
. In a recent report by Parks Associates
titled OTT & Sports: Services and Strategies for Growth
, we estimated that the NFL earned up to $13 billion on media rights in 2022. As part of these rights agreements, the Super Bowl is broadcast by Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC/ESPN in rotation.
Consumers subscribe to pay-TV and OTT services primarily for sports programming. Data from Parks Associates shows more than half of pay-TV households in the United States report that the availability of live sports is an important factor in maintaining their pay-TV services. Our research shows 40% of US households with a legacy pay-TV subscription watch sports on pay-TV, while only 22% of OTT video service users reported doing so. This is, in part, because sports rights are still skewed towards pay-TV arrangements. As traditional pay-TV subscriptions decline, sports leagues have begun negotiating streaming rights. Thus, online services are acquiring sports media rights and viewing sports content as the next growth sector for their services. This is particularly important for advertisers seeking to reach the coveted male 18-24 demographic: currently, the median age of traditional pay-TV viewers is 51, while the median age of sports OTT streamers is 39. As of Q3 2021, the vast majority of males ages 18-34 in the United States subscribe to an OTT sports service.
Innovations on the Biggest Stage
The Super Bowl is an opportunity for broadcasters to demonstrate new innovations and technologies that will shape the future of how consumers interact with and engage with sports content on the world's largest stage. Among these Innovations are the following:
- The Fox Sports Group introduced a new graphics package for the clock, score, and other broadcast features. According to Fox Sports President/Executive Producer Brad Zager, the network's Super Bowl Sunday graphics were slightly different. “It won't be as drastic as our last Super Bowl three years ago, but it will modernize the appearance even more: we have some other bells and whistles, such as multiple Skycams and outdoor AR graphics designed specifically for the Super Bowl.”
- In the early days of streaming, major events such as the Super Bowl were frequently accompanied by significant and widespread interruptions and delays. Latency refers to the delay between what occurs on the field or court and when it is broadcast to the audience. The delay between transmission and reception can range from 30 seconds to one minute, threatening to ruin an exciting game for streaming users. The Fox Sports App was able to reduce latency to almost zero for Super Bowl LVII, meaning streaming customers were ahead of cable and broadcast users. Fox partnered with SSIMWAVE to monitor and adjust the quality of streams during the game. In a win for the industry, Superbowl LVII, had no issues with streaming during the Super Bowl.
Thanks for reading my newsletter, featuring Parks Associates consumer and industry research. We are hosting a webinar on April 5 featuring this research service. Please join us!