NFL is right to be concerned with another drop in Super Bowl ratings
A field goal’s worth of final NFL media thoughts while wondering who has to clean up all of that confetti the Patriots left in their wake . . .
Much noise was made about ratings and viewership being down for the Super Bowl. CBS drew an estimated 98.2 million viewers for the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams, which was down 5 percent from last year’s Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl on NBC.
It certainly should be of some concern to the NFL and its broadcast partners given that viewership last year fell to 103.4 million, down from 111.3 million (Patriots-Falcons) in 2016. It appears the record 114.4 million that tuned in for the Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl to cap the 2014 season will remain untouchable in the coming years, especially as television viewership continues to drop across all genres.
I will admit to being surprised by the depth of the dip, figuring viewership would still eclipse the 100 million mark. Last year’s Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl was an entertaining game, but it wasn’t as appealing a matchup as this year’s Rams-Patriots showdown, which featured the tried-and-true old approach against the new generation in coaches Bill Belichick and Sean McVay and quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jared Goff. And yet last year’s game drew 5.2 million more viewers.
There were variables that worked against this game. The Rams, which returned to Los Angeles from St. Louis in 2016, don’t have much established loyalty in their fan base, which is understandable. New Orleans, whose Saints might have been the NFC representative if not for a blatant non-call in the conference championship game, basically pretended the Super Bowl didn’t happen. Patriots fatigue may be a real thing nationally. It wasn’t that long ago that we were sick of seeing Derek Jeter’s mug on Fox every October.
The NFL’s concern about the fall is understandable, but in context, it’s still a number that no other television show will approach this calendar year. It is massive, just less massive than usual for the second straight year.
During CBS’s media day for the Super Bowl last week, studio analyst Nate Burleson was asked which current players he thinks would make good television analysts in the future. Burleson, who spent 11 years in the NFL as a wide receiver, retiring after the 2013 season, was the ideal person to ask given that he’s made the transition to the studio as well as any ex-player I’ve ever seen. The first player he cited was Larry Fitzgerald, the longtime Cardinals star receiver. He also mentioned Saints quarterback Drew Brees. CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, who recognized the broadcasting talent in phenomenon Tony Romo, added another name, albeit a coach rather than a player: Steelers boss Mike Tomlin. There are former Patriots all over the national NFL media landscape nowadays, among them Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, and Randy Moss. One name among current Patriots that came up in discussions with media personalities as a potential future broadcaster is Devin McCourty, who already does good work as a contributor to NBC Sports Boston’s “Quick Slants” program. His brother, Jason, is also a welcome voice on that show, though he has a lower profile than Devin.
The football season is over, but the season for networks to begin reshaping their talent rosters is just beginning. Word of the first major move was broken by the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand when he reported Thursday that Charles Woodson would not be back on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown,” something Woodson confirmed on Instagram. Woodson never made much of an impact in his three years on the show, which includes hosts Sam Ponder and analysts Moss, Rex Ryan, and Matt Hasselbeck. The show would be better off if it doesn’t fill Woodson’s spot and gives the charismatic Moss more room to roam.
Heinsohn back on air
Here’s some good NBA news that has nothing to do with the Lakers’ disappointment at the trading deadline: Tommy Heinsohn is expected to be back alongside Mike Gorman on NBC Sports Boston’s broadcast of Saturday’s Celtics-Clippers game. Heinsohn, 84, has missed most of the season with medical issues and was eventually diagnosed as sleep apnea. He returned to the NBC Sports Boston’s studio program Tuesday. “He plans to be sitting right next to me on Saturday,’’ said Gorman on The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” program Wednesday. “Very excited about that.” . . . The MLB Network will premier a documentary on Red Sox manager Alex Cora on Tuesday at 9 p.m. Titled “Alex Cora: The Making of a Champion,’’ it is part of the network’s excellent MLB Network Presents series, and will include an extensive interview conducted by Tom Verducci.