Sunday night’s Super Bowl XLVI matchup between the New York Giants and New England Patriots broke the record for the largest television audience for the third consecutive year. With an average of 111.3 million viewers, it edged out last year’s broadcast and became just the fourth such program to break the 100 million mark.
For the 17th time in its history, coverage of this year’s game was broadcast on NBC. The network, owned by Comcast Corp., has struggled to keep up with its competitors of late, making the broadcast positively crucial to its immediate future. The record-setting audience was exactly the desired result. NBC also took advantage of the incredible numbers to push the premiere of the second season of ‘The Voice’ in the lead-out slot to the largest viewership entertainment telecast in more than six years.
The broadcast itself, led by the ‘Sunday Night Football’ crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, also featured a pair of highly respected individuals in Bob Costas and Dan Patrick running the lengthy pregame show. Unlike many appearances by current pro athletes, the inclusion of newly named NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers paid dividends; he was knowledgeable and personable. NBC utilized the fanfare surrounding the game to insert many more of its personalities and plug its other programming, including a notably well-planned integration of its popular ‘Today’ show throughout the week leading up to Sunday.
NBC’s on-screen overlay was exceptionally minimalist, clean, and accurate, unlike FOX’s visually busy but highly informative effort in 2011. The broadcast suffered from no major mistakes with commentary, plays, telestrating, or statistical displays, reflecting well on the prowess of NBC to understand its audience and deliver a high quality viewing experience.
The game was streamed live online on both NFL.com and NBCSports.com, with integrated social media hyping the newly branded NBC Sports Network. There is no question that the online real-time conversation on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are as much a part of the Super Bowl media experience as what is on television, and NBC fared well in involving its audience into the experience.
The commercials featured throughout the broadcast were even generally less frivolous than in years past, with some advertisers striking more serious chords, most notably Chrysler and its ‘Halftime in America’ spot. The halftime performance of the seemingly ageless Madonna was a success, with excellent production blemished only by a controversial gesture from supporting performer M.I.A. that slipped by the censors.
This particular program was obviously helped along by hype surrounding ‘The Rematch’ and the intensity of the close contest playing out on the turf at LucasOil Stadium, but well executed coverage of major events such as the Super Bowl and the upcoming Summer Olympic Games may be the key to helping NBC back into the race with its competitors.