Monday, February 2, 2015

Are the 'historic' Super Bowl ratings for real?

I've learned in the course of my career to be skeptical about everything where the media is concerned. And right now these breathless reports of record-high viewership of the Super Bowl are at the top of my skepticism list. in fact, I call BS -- you know, bull sale. I just don't believe it.

At the risk of sounding like that New York columnist who famously didn't know anybody who voted for Nixon, I didn't see the level of excitement that would generate a record audience. I look at the several churches in the area that used to hold Super Bowl parties but no longer do, either because of the offensive commercials and halftime entertainment or because they've been threatened by the league. Our health club, which did a big social gathering for the college football championship game, did nothing for the Super Bowl. And rarely has there been a year when people have been less excited about the matchup. In short, a lot of people really disliked both teams, and for good reason.

But my skepticism goes beyond my personal realm. The fact is that the company making the record-viewership claim is NBC, which invested billions of dollars in showing the game and collected more billions from advertisers. Do you think the media companies that have so much money invested in that product would tell us if fewer people watched? Secondly, as far as I understand ratings, they're more a barometer of how many televisions are tuned to a certain program than how many eyes are on the TVs. So if the Super Bowl isn't as big a social event as it used to be (my hunch), there may have been a few more people watching at home, but that doesn't mean there were more people watching.

For my part, I only saw a small portion of the game as I spent most of my afternoon watching a scintillating winter league baseball playoff contest between teams from Colombia and Panama. A guy took a no-hitter into the ninth. There were arguments over bad calls and was even a brawl when a baserunner barreled into the catcher a little too violently. And there was a walk-off hit. It was televised by several networks and probably generated a sizable TV audience of its own -- in Central America.

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