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Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 02/04/2013

Nielsen scrubs blackout, but Super Bowl ratings still drop


Half the lights are out in the Superdome during a power outage. (Gerald Herbert - AP)
A power outage that plunged half the Superdome into darkness and stopped game play for 34 minutes put a damper on Sunday’s Super Bowl ratings, which came in behind the 2012 and ’11 games, making it the third most watched broadcast in TV history.

An average of 108.4 million people watched Sunday’s game, which morphed from a pre-blackout walkover into a post-blackout squeaker in which the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31.

This is a number any TV producer would kill for, but it’s down, year to year, compared to the estimated 111.4 million people who’d watched the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots at the 2012 Super Bowl; it’s also shy of the 111 million who’d watched the Super Bowl game in ’11. Late Monday, CBS put out word Sunday’s bowl game had been sampled by 164.1 million viewers, which bested last year’s 159.2 million. These numbers reflect the quantity of people who watched as little as six minutes of the broadcast. It’s a number that’s relevant to advertisers — because it’s a near cert that anyone who watched six minutes saw an ad break. But these are not the numbers for Nielsen’s Super Bowl historical tracking.


CBS’s 1983 broadcast of the “M*A*S*H” series finale remains the country’s highest rated television broadcast in history — household ratings clocking the percentage of percentage of the country’s population watching a program. The long-running anti-war drama’s finale clocked a whopping 60.2 household rating, which means 60.2 percent of the country’s TV homes were tuned in. Sunday’s game attracted about 46.3 percent of U.S. TV homes.

That “M*A*S*H” bow-out rating translated to about 106 million viewers three decades ago — about 2.4 million shy of Sunday’s game, which is a remarkable accomplishment considering there are about 114 million more people in the country today than when “M*A*S*H” signed off.

Though Nielsen has scrubbed Sunday’s blackout from its Super Bowl books, dead time impacted game ratings.

Those numbers climbed steadily every half hour through Beyonce’s halftime show, even though the game was shaping up as a Ravens walkover.

But, minutes after the start of the second half, power went out in a large chunk of the stadium and in CBS’s control booth, leaving the network scrambling to hang on to viewers without its on-air A team, which could’ve been catastrophic, what with advertisers paying a record $3.8-$4 million for a 30 second spot in the game and expecting their money’s worth of viewers.

CBS did its best to fill the programming void with “will this unexpected break change the game momentum, and give San Fran time to re-group?”talking-head blah, blah, blah, and some ads, while social media beat the drum: .

“49ers just unleashed their ‘Blow a Fuse’ strategy!” tweeted “Dancing with the Stars” host Tom Bergeron.

“David Chase wrote the third quarter,” added “Lost” creator Damon Lindelof.

“Somewhere there’s a CBS salesperson on the phone pitching the extra 10 mins of inventory they just created :),” chimed in Mark Cuban.

 “Beyonce was so daggone hot, she blew out the power! #superbowlblackout,” tweeted “The View’s” Sherri Shepherd.

Dome management and the NFL blamed the blackout on an “abnormality.”

 Beyonce, however, credited God:

“It's a live television show, it's the biggest show in America, and there's so many things that could happen and God was on my side, so I'm very, very happy that it went well and the power went out after,” she told celebrity suck-up show “omg! Insider” Sunday night.

The 34-minute blackout delay proved bad news for CBS’s primetime hit “Elementary,” which got bumped entirely out of primetime and into late night in some time zones.

With the latest start time ever for the coveted post-Super Bowl broadcast — 11:11 p.m. ET — the episode delivered 20.8 million viewers.

On the bright side, that’s good sampling for the freshman series — about 8 million more viewers than its season average.It’s also, CBS noted, about 3.5 million more viewers than ABC’s JJ Abrams drama “Alias” delivered after the Super Bowl in 2003 – the only other post-Super Bowl broadcast that aired completely out of primetime.

But it’s a steep slide compared to last year’s post-bowl broadcast experience, when NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” hung on to nearly 38 million Super Bowl viewers. In fairness, that “The Voice” episode had started its post-bowl broadcast about 50 minutes earlier than did CBS’s re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes story.

 “The Voice” has since become a major player for NBC — this past fall it catapulted the network from last place to first in the fourth quarter among the major broadcast networks.

The super-late post-Super Bowl start time may also have capped the crowd for CBS’s ‘Late Late Show” special Sunday night broadcast — at 4.4 million viewers, it was host Craig Ferguson’s second biggest haul ever, just behind his 2007 post-Super Bowl SLI broadcast.

The “Elementary”gang may have had on their sad faces after seeing Sunday’s numbers, but you know which CBS property was dancing the happy dance?

“60 Minutes Sports”!

It landed exclusive behind-the-scenes footage in the NFL control room as the lights went out at Super Bowl XLVII, having been working on a bowl segment for CBS-owned pay cable network Showtime that’s scheduled to run Wednesday night.

CBS News’s Armen Keteyian was in the control room, interviewing Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vp/events — aka, guy in charge of NFL game-day operations — a couple minutes into the second half of the game.

Supovitz was prattling on happily about the decision to move the Superdome’s 50-yard clock during Beyonce’s performance because the clock was set so low would have been in every shot, while Kateyian tried hard to look interested.

Suddenly, half the stadium went dark.

“We lost the A-feed,” the league’s Director of Strategic Security Jeff Miller is seen saying to Supovitz in the footage, which CBS News broadcast Monday on “CBS This Morning,” to plug the Showtime program.

What does that mean?” Supovitz was seen asking in the footage.

“It means to have to do the bus tie,” Miller said — or something that sounded like “bus tie.” You could write a book about what we don’t know about NFL Super Bowl control rooms.

“What does that mean?” Supovitz asked, which would’ve been our question too.

“It means about a 20-minute delay,” Miller said.

 

Here’s CBS late night star Craig Ferguson, who was in New Orleans for a special post-game broadcast, explaining what happened at the Superdome:

By  |  05:00 PM ET, 02/04/2013

Tags:  Super Bowl XLVII, super bowl, cbs, baltimore ravens

 
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