The ratings for Super Bowl LIII were the poorest in 10 years, and many of the reasons why can be found away from the gridiron.
Super Bowl LIII had a lot to overcome as far as conscientious viewers of American sports were concerned, the most recent of which is the clear blackballing of Colin Kaepernick for protesting oppression in America.
The fairly recent revelation that the NFL was aware of the dangers of repeated concussions on the brains of players, yet hid that information, makes overtures made by former league commissioner Paul Tagliabue to start the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee and appoint then New York Jets team doctor and rheumatologist Dr. Elliot Pellman as chair look like window dressings.
When asked about the issue of concussions in 1994, Pellman told Newsday:
“‘We discuss it on the list of things every time we have a league meeting … We think the issue of knees, of drugs and steroids and drinking, is a far greater problem, according to the number of incidents.”
Pellman also told Sports Illustrated that “concussions are part of the profession, an occupational risk.” He was forced into retirement in 2016.
Being incredibly cavalier with people’s lives is an NFL tradition. Of course, there’s also the domestic violence issue that has long dogged the league.
In 2013, the horrific video of Ray Rice Jr knocking his then-girlfriend unconscious on an elevator was released after the league had already handed out a hand slap of a punishment. The NFL had to suspend Rice indefinitely after they were criticized even more harshly after the release of said video. But why did it take a video?
And let’s not get into how the National Football League has been complicit in the widespread abuse of opioids that has historically taken place around the league.
According to an online peer-reviewed study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence scientific journal, retired NFL players abuse opioids at four times the rate of the general population, suggesting its more than likely due to players using them during the entire careers at the behest of their franchises to alleviate the brutal pain they suffer.
Yes, many of the people who tuned out of the NFL’s championship game on Sunday did so in support of Colin Kaepernick.
Rich Ratings, Poor Ratings
During the regular season, the NFL stealthy pivoted away from the narrative of collusion in the midst of what was then a 5 percent increase in regular season ratings following a two-year decrease, with digital ratings up a whopping 86 percent over the prior season.
Now check this out: Super Bowl LIII suffered a 10-year low in TV ratings. Super Bowl LII between the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles was an eight-year low. While many will point to the low score as the reason, a stinker this bad seems to be more complicated than that.
To be fair, CBS’ Super Bowl coverage may have cannibalized itself, with record numbers of people preferring to watch the big game via streaming app of some sort.
But the lack of offense during the game, and the soulless Halftime Show provided by Maroon 5, were compounded by the millions who’re still boycotting the NFL over Kap, or any number of other NFL issues.
Super Bowl LIII was watched on CBS in all-or-part by 149.0 million (Persons 2+) viewers on an all-or-part basis according to Nielsen’s Fast Total Audience Estimates.
Streaming numbers for NFL football continue to hit record viewership highs across all platforms to nearly 7.5 million unique devices, up 20 percent from last year and people watched over 560 million total minutes of game coverage via device, up 19 percent from last year.
Pander Much, NFL?
The Gladys Knight rendition of the National Anthem, getting Big Boi to perform with the Wonder Bread collaborative known as Maroon 5, the Players’ Coalition sponsored Reform Initiative, playing up the 100th Anniversary of the NFL with that incredible commercial featuring football immortals like Franco Harris, Deion Sanders, Barry Sanders and so forth?
Clap….clap….clap. Brilliant stuff.
Even the sudden nature in which hip-hop stars Meek Mill and Snoop Dogg, both of whom performed at the Patriots’ Super Bowl Party after the big win, have been chummy with team owner Robert Kraft after being enlightened to the evils of mass incarceration by Meek and company.
While it is not my intention to cast aspersions on the sincerity of Mr. Kraft or who he chooses to be associated with, it has been a cross-cultural PR boon for all parties.
Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” was used as the soundtrack for the Super Bowl LII champion Philadelphia Eagles just a year ago, now he’s the hype man for the Super Bowl LIII New England Patriots?
But, alas, none of that mattered to the bottom line on Super Bowl Sunday.
Congratulations to the New England Patriots on their continued dominance over the National Football League as they are crowned as champions of the least watched Super Bowl, as far as television is concerned, over the past 10 years.