The Super Bowl is Not Watched By Anywhere Near a “Billion People” Every Year
This myth seems to get spread around by the media every year around Super Bowl time, as well as by fans themselves. For this amount of people to watch the Super Bowl, about one out of every seven people on the planet would have to tune in. This would be particularly remarkable considering only about one out of every seven people on the planet have access to the Super Bowl broadcast; so that would mean every single person who can watch the Super Bowl will. This further strains the “logic test” when you consider that would also mean all those people in those countries not the U.S. and Canada would suddenly have to become interested in American Football for one day of the year.
The myth comes from the fact that the Super Bowl is broadcast to around 225 countries with about one billion people in those countries having access to the broadcast. This quickly got misconstrued by the media to: “the Super Bowl will be seen by over a billion people in 225 countries”.
So how many people actually watch the Super Bowl? In recent years, that amount has varied from around 80-100 million people. That’s extremely impressive, but perhaps less so on a global scale when you consider that an estimated 98% of those viewers are from North America, with about 97% of that amount coming from the United States. Meaning, it would seem, at least as far as ratings are concerned, the networks are wasting their time broadcasting the game to the other 224+ countries, considering only a couple million people outside of North America watch the game every year.
It can’t be denied, though, that the game is a big deal in the U.S. with around 1/3 of the population tuning in to the game every year.
The NFL, of course, has no interest in dispelling this “billion” myth and broadcasting to all these other countries helps advertise the game to those countries, even if the ratings are extremely poor there. This also allows them to say “broadcast to potentially over a billion people in over 225 countries”, making the game seem more impressive and more of a big deal worldwide then it is.
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Super Bowl Facts:
- It is illegal, according to the NFL, to show the Super Bowl on any screen larger than 55 inches. They also do not allow the Super Bowl to be shown at any venue that wouldn’t normally show sporting events, such as churches or the like.
- The first two Super Bowl games were called: “The AFL-NFL World Championship Game”. The third Super Bowl was called Super Bowl III and that tradition of numbering it with Roman numerals, rather than by date, has stuck every since.
- According to the USDA, Super Bowl Sunday is the “second highest day of food consumption in the United States, after Thanksgiving.”
- The most people to ever watch a Super Bowl game was around 106.5 million people during Super Bowl XLIV (in 2010). This potentially beat the record, by the TV Show M*A*S*H, of 105.97 million people watching a broadcast, though, given the margin of error in the Nielsen estimates, this can’t be stated for sure. And, of course, it’s not an entirely fair comparison as M*A*S*H wasn’t available in nearly as many homes as the Super Bowl is every year, even within the U.S. itself. For reference, an estimated 77% of all TV sets in the United States tuned in to watch the final episode of M*A*S*H. The closest the Super Bowl has ever come to that number is 49.1% in 1982, aided by a large blizzard that day covering most of the north eastern part of the U.S. It is also generally thought that more people tune in worldwide to watch the final game of the World Cup than watch the Super Bowl.
- The Super Bowl was created as a part of the merger agreement between the NFL and the AFL. While the agreement was being worked out, each year the AFL and NFL would play a championship game against each other. Once the merger was complete, this game would continue, but instead of being the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game” it would simply be a game against the two conferences and was now called the “Super Bowl”, as stated above.
- In the early days, Super Bowls generally featured college and high school marching bands for the halftime show. This gradually changed to featuring various singers and other such performers.
- The first halftime show to feature only one performer was during Super Bowl XXVII when Michael Jackson was hired by the NFL to perform in order to boost ratings.
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