Power outage drains Super Bowl ratings
By Lisa de Moraes,
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 2011 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, as the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31.
An estimated 111.4 million people watched the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots at the 2012 Super Bowl, and 111 million watched the game in ’11.
(FYI, the audience was 106.5 million in 2010.)
CBS’s 1983 broadcast of the “M*A*S*H” series finale remains the country’s highest-rated TV broadcast in history — household ratings clocking the 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 — a remarkable accomplishment considering there are about 114 million more people in the country today than when “M*A*S*H” signed off.
Although Nielsen has scrubbed the viewership during the blackout from its Super Bowl books, the dead time impacted overall 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 — a situation that could have been fiscally catastrophic, what with advertisers paying a record $3.8 million to $4 million for a 30-second spot during 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 regroup?” talking-head blah, blah, blah, as well as with some ads. Meanwhile 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.
Late Monday, CBS put out word that the game was sampled by 164.1 million viewers, which bested last year’s 159.2 million. Those 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.)
The blackout delay proved to be bad news for CBS’s hit “Elementary,” which got bumped entirely out of prime time 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 J.J. Abrams drama “Alias” delivered after the 2003 Super Bowl — the only other post-Super Bowl broadcast that aired completely out of prime time.
But it’s a steep slide compared with last year’s post-bowl broadcast, when NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” hung on to nearly 38 million viewers.
The “Elementary” gang might have had on their sad faces after seeing the numbers, but you know which CBS property was dancing the happy dance? “60 Minutes Sports”!
The program landed exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage in the NFL control room as the lights went out at Super Bowl XLVII. “60 Minutes Sports” was working on a segment for CBS-owned Showtime that’s scheduled to run Wednesday night.
CBS News’s Armen Keteyian was in the control room, interviewing Frank Supovitz — who is NFL senior VP for events (a.k.a., guy in charge of NFL game-day operations ) a couple of minutes into the second half.
Supovitz was prattling on happily about the decision to move the Superdome’s 50-yard -line clock during Beyonce’s performance while Keteyian tried hard to look interested. Suddenly, half the stadium went dark.
“We lost the A-feed,” Jeff Miller, the league’s director of strategic security, is seen saying to Supovitz in the footage — which CBS News aired Monday on “CBS This Morning,” to plug the Showtime program.
“What does that mean?” Supovitz is seen asking.
“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 have been our question, too.
“It means about a 20-minute delay,” Miller said.
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/