Jo Ann Ross, CBS's president of ad sales, could be biting her nails on Sunday afternoon if a prediction that viewership for the Super Bowl will go down this year comes true.
Brad Adgate, the venerable research chief at media buying agency Horizon Media, made the call.
Although the big game will still be the most-watched TV event of the year — and CBS won't likely be giving any of its advertisers "make-good" credits for missed numbers — it's still a huge point of pride when a network can hit a record audience for the trophy game.
The problem is that the last three bowls have all set TV audience records, the most recent being the 111.3 million viewers accumulated by NBC in 2012, when the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots.
That won't likely happen a fourth year in a row, Adgate writes in Ad Age:
This season, however, ratings have fallen off for the NFL. Not alarmingly, but enough to predict that the Super Bowl may not surpass the record 111.3 million viewers the "big game" averaged last year. For the 2012 regular season, viewing was down on the three broadcast networks as well as ESPN's "Monday Night Football."
The ten post-season games before the Super Bowl last year averaged a healthy 38.3 million viewers. This includes four games that averaged over 40 million viewers, with 57.6 million tuning in for the NFC Championship game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. This year viewing was down by 9% for the ten games, averaging "only" 34.8 million viewers. Just the two conference championship games averaged over 40 million viewers.
In other words, it's going to be a reversion to the mean.
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