Super Bowl LI: The Stats and the Social Media Impact

Published on Feb 7th, 2017

By Marc Berman

In one of the most stunning upsets in the history of the Super Bowl, Fox Sports is touting New England’s 34 to 28 victory over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI as the most-viewed program in television history. A total audience of 172 million viewers tuned in for all, or part, of the live event, according to Nielsen. Last year, Super Bowl 50 on CBS had a global audience of 167 million viewers.

The more appropriate assessment for Super Bowl LI, however, is finishing as the fifth most-watched program historically (which are all Super Bowls), with an average audience of 111.3 million viewers. Comparably, this is now Fox’s second most-watched event ever behind Super Bowl XLVII in 2014 (with 112.2 million).

Still leading the pack is NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 at 114.4 million viewers. As a point of reference, the Top 5 ranking now has a new occupant:

1. Super Bowl XLIX NBC 2/1/2015 114.4 million
2. Super Bowl XLVIII Fox 2/2/2014 112.2 million
3. Super Bowl 50 CBS 2/7/2016 111.9 million
4. Super Bowl XLVI NBC 2/5/2012 111.4 million
5. Super Bowl LI Fox 2/6/2017 111.3 million

Including the additional 1.72 million viewers who used online streaming to watch the telecast and the approximate 650,000 viewers who saw the Spanish-language telecast of the game on its Fox Deportes channel, and the audience tally for Super Bowl LI, on average, increases to 113.7 million. To the masses who do believe that online viewing will eventually replace actually watching television on television, note the small percentage of viewers streaming the event.  For a live experience like The Super Bowl (or upcoming The Grammy Awards and The Academy Awards, for example), there is still no better place than consuming content the old-fashioned way.

Lady Gaga’s halftime performance, meanwhile, drew 117.5 million viewers during the 8:15-8:30 p.m ET. window, and now ranks as the second most-watched halftime show in Super Bowl history (behind the 120.7 million for Katy Perry at Super Bowl XLIX in 2015).

The moral of this story: Not even the diluted performance for the NFL this season (an average 16.7 million viewers was off by 7 percent from one year earlier), could dampen the spirit of television’s biggest annual event. And Super Bowl LI, coupled with the highly rated seven-game Baseball World Series last October, will certainly magnify Fox’s position to prospective advertisers as upfront selling season looms. But will these potential brands recognize that the strength of Fox, at present, is a reflection of these grand sporting events?

Mark your calendars: The broadcast networks traditionally unveil their scheduling plans for the upcoming TV season the second week in May.

Of course, there was so much more to Super Bowl LI than just the traditional Nielsen ratings. Super Bowl LI is now the single most talked about television program ever, according to Nielsen Social Content Ratings, with 48 million social authors across Facebook and Twitter generating 191 million social interactions. Reflective of the national mood, the event will be remembered for the political tone of many of the advertisements, beginning with the first of two from Coca-Cola and featuring a cast of diverse people singing "America the Beautiful” in multiple languages; and peaking, perhaps, with 84 Lumber Company, which told the story of an immigrant family's journey to America.

In an analysis of social actions by Shareablee acrossFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram from Feb. 5 to Feb. 6, 84 Lumber Company ranked fourth overall with more than 5.8 million actions. The NFL topped the list with over 33 million actions, while Lady Gaga finished second with over 7 million actions.

The Top 10 listing is as follows:


With the general consensus positive for Lady Gaga’s halftime show (there were 2.2 million tweets  during the 20-minute live performance and 5.1 million counting the 20 minutes before and 10 minutes following), the top post on Facebook, with 1,793, 263 total actions, was a co-branded video of the Halftime Show Posted on the NFL Facebook page.

The top post of Twitter, at 205,537 total actions, was the following tweet by Lady Gaga:

The top post on Instagram, by Lady Gaga, resulted in 1,040,991 total actions.

In this new weekly column, I will order my commentary based on news within the media community at present, or a specific network, platform, series or anything worth noting that creates a buzz within social activity. Each topic of note will incorporate the traditional ratings with the social interactions, fully recognizing that the business once monopolized by Nielsen is now multi-faceted and continually evolving. And each week I will offer my personal observations coupled with the voice of the masses, who now have their own individual platforms via social media.

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