Super Bowl’s TV ratings slip for the second straight year

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
(Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images)

A dramatic come-from-behind victory by the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons wasn’t enough to set a new ratings record for the Super Bowl.

Fox’s telecast of Super Bowl LI was watched by 111.3 million viewers Sunday, down slightly from last year’s game and marking the second consecutive year ratings have dropped.

The average audience for the game was off 0.5% from the 111.9 million who watched Super Bowl 50 on CBS in 2016.


But Fox said it had an additional 1.72 million viewers who used online streaming to watch the telecast, which was available free through its Fox Sports app and website.

Fox also had the Spanish-language telecast of the game on its Fox Deportes channel, which averaged 650,000 viewers.

Fox put the total average audience at 113.7 million viewers, making it the second-best multiplatform performance ever for the Super Bowl.

Although the NFL has struggled with a ratings downturn this season, the Fox TV ratings for the New England Patriots’ stunning 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons could have been negatively affected by the lopsided first half.

In the Patriots’ home market of Boston, the rating declined by four rating points when the team was down 25 points. No team had ever surmounted such a deficit in a Super Bowl. Viewing picked up toward the end of the game as the Patriots mounted their historic comeback.

The Nielsen rating also does not include out-of-home viewing in such venues as bars and restaurants.

Even with the slight decline from last year, Super Bowl LI ranks as the fourth-most-watched TV event of all time. The viewing record was set in 2015 with NBC’s telecast of Super Bowl XLIX, watched by an average audience of 114.4 million viewers.

Atlanta averaged a 57.0 rating, ranking third out of the 56 markets that are measured for overnight ratings by Nielsen. Boston averaged a 54.3 rating, ranking eighth. A rating point represents a percentage of TV households in the market.

The Super Bowl is perennially the most watched TV program of the year. Fox said it was able to charge a record price of about $5 million for a 30-second commercial on the telecast.

The most popular commercial during the show was Bai Brands’ 30-second spot for its beverage line, according to TiVo, which analyzed video streams to determine which commercial had the best engagement among viewers.

TiVo’s measurement tools search for bumps in viewership to determine how many people rewind the program to re-watch ads. It’s one of several informal rankings of Super Bowl ads.

The Bai spot featured Christopher Walken dramatically delivering the lyrics from “Bye Bye Bye,” the hit song in 2000 from ’N Sync. Walken turns to band alum Justin Timberlake, in a smoking jacket, who seemingly acknowledged his approval.

Bai said it brought Timberlake into the company last November as a corporate advisor — chief flavor officer. The spot was developed by Bai’s in-house creative team and led by the company’s chief creative officer, Chad Portas. It was the second year that Bai advertised in the Super Bowl.

Several commercials produced by Southern California advertising agencies scored well in the TiVo rankings.

South Korean auto company Kia’s 60-second spot “Hero’s Journey,” featuring Melissa McCarthy, ranked second. The commercial was created by the David & Goliath advertising agency in El Segundo (which, incidentally, had used Walken in Kia’s ad last year).

Honda’s ad, “Yearbooks,” which showed real-life school photos of celebrities, including Magic Johnson, Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Jimmy Kimmel, landed in the top five. The ad was created by the RPA ad agency in Santa Monica.

Wonderful Co.’s 15-second Ernie the Elephant commercial, “Ernie Gets Physical,” developed by the Wonderful Agency in Los Angeles, rounded out the top 10.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


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5:55 p.m.: This article was updated with findings from a survey by TiVo.

11:02 a.m.: This article is updated with data from Nielsen.

This article was originally published at 9:45 a.m.