The lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history also produced some of the lowest audience numbers for the big game in a decade.
Just over 100 million people watched Super Bowl LIII, CBS said Monday. But the network included those who watched the game on televisions as well as streaming services such as CBS Interactive and the NFL’s digital properties. About 98 million watched the big game the traditional way, CBS said citing early Nielsen data -- the lowest figure since 2009 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
Sunday’s game was still one of the top 12 most-watched Super Bowls, according to historical data from Nielsen. And 149 million people watched at least six minutes of the Super Bowl, CBS said. But the plodding play, constant punts and low score apparently did not inspire fans to stay tuned in.
CBS and the NFL saw the number of devices streaming the game grow by 20 percent. But many viewers reported glitchy streams that dropped the game or apps that crashed, forcing them to restart their devices at the most inopportune time — in the final minutes of the match.
In statements to The Washington Post on Monday, CBS and ROKU said, “A subset of Roku users experienced intermittent issues with the CBS Sports app during the last few minutes of the game.”
Football fans, as one might expect, described the situation in more dire terms on Twitter.
Among the reported issues was a repeatedly crashing app that never seemed to correct itself, with desperate fans trying to reconnect and catch the game’s final moments.
CBS and Roku did not say how many users faced technical problems.
On the bright side, fans left in the dark didn’t miss all that much, according to coverage of the game, which was the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history and featured a halftime show that critics have characterized as forgettable.
In addition to the shifting demands of an increasingly cord-cutting population, the ratings slide of the NFL has also come amid players protesting police brutality and racial injustice, questions about player safety, and President Trump’s criticism of the league. He has urged his supporters to boycott the NFL in response to player protests.
But this year may have marked a turning point in viewership, with spectacular play — record breaking scoring and historically closer games — boosting audience numbers.
According to the NFL, average viewership for 2018 regular season football games increased 5 percent over last year. Every network that broadcast games saw bigger audiences. And 46 out of the 50 most-watched shows on TV this season were NFL games.
The Super Bowl game was televised on CBS and was available to watch on CBS Sports’s website and through the CBS Sports app.