Sunday, February 7, 2021

Why tonight’s Super Bowl LV will likely become the most watched TV event of all time

By Zachary Baru

In a year filled with lockdowns and social distancing, tonight’s Super Bowl LV has a very good chance of setting a new television viewership record.  

It is not uncommon for a Super Bowl to set viewer records, as an event when so many turn to their TV for more than just the game.  The halftime show has become an event in itself, and the game is more of an American tradition than a sporting event.  But this year something is much different - social distancing has become the new norm, and with that, ratings could have a large spike. 

Ratings could see a large rise for two factors, and both of which work off one another.  The first, being many more people at home than usual, as this year more than any year people are staying inside.  On a typical Super Bowl Sunday, people may stay inside, but they go to parties and watch in large groups.  That will all likely change this year.

Those large Super Bowl parties in many cases will become small groups of two or four, multiplying the ratings of would-be parties of 10 or 20.  Even if fans watch the game with two or three other people, the NFL would still see much higher ratings than the usual ratings of parties of 10 or more, normally counted as one household rating.  That one household could potentially become two, three or more households staying at home.  

Another completely non-COVID factor that should not be forgotten is the teams and players themselves.  Tom Brady alone will draw in many viewers, whether you love or dislike him.  As Brady goes for his seventh championship ring, many will watch to either root for him, or in hopes he won't get another Super Bowl ring to add to his collection.  You can certainly count on the large Boston demographic, and worldwide New England Patriot fanbase, Brady's former team, to either root him on or seek their revenge.  

The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs also have a fairly large following nationwide, adding to the potentially massive ratings for this evening.  While the two markets playing tonight are not traditionally recognized as large media markets, the Chiefs have a following that travels across several midwest states that do not have NFL teams.  Tampa is also no small city if you include the entire metropolitan area.  The city itself only has 387,000 residents, but the entire metro area including St. Petersburg and Clearwater has a population of just over 3 million people, the eighteenth largest metro area in the country.

With these factors playing off each other, and the effects of COVID-19 changing many peoples’ lifestyles, this years’ Super Bowl will be watched in a much more intimate way, driving up the ratings, and very likely setting a new TV viewership record as the most-watched TV event in history.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at  Zach also writes and