Super Bowl 53 will go down as one for the record books, but not in the way you’d normally expect. In fact, on almost every front, this year’s game was a collection of lows,. It was the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, the halftime show featuring Maroon 5 was considered by many to be snore-worthy (even Adam Levine’s bare chest couldn’t spice things up), and the game drew one of the lowest TV audiences in years. Just about the only stat that went up was the number of people who chose to stream the game — and that was an all-time high. Here’s how the game looked from a viewing perspective.
The broadcast, delivered by CBS, got 98.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen, down from 103.4 million in 2018. The last time a Super Bowl saw a TV audience size this small was back in 2008, when New England took on the New York Giants. That game only had 97.4 million TV viewers.
By contrast, streams of the this year’s game came in at a record-breaking 2.2 million viewers, a 31 percent increase from the prior year. One big reason for the streaming boost was its massive availability. Viewers were able to tune in on their devices without authentication via CBSSports.com, the CBS Sports app, NFL.com, the NFL app, YouTube TV, and Verizon mobile properties — including Yahoo Sports, Yahoo, AOL, AOL Sports, and, oddly, Tumblr too, according to TechCrunch. It was also available via CBS’s online subscription service, CBS All Access.
Cord cutters may have rejoiced at the number of ways they were able to access the game without a cable or satellite box, but data from streaming infrastructure company Phenix suggests that these viewers ended up seeing the on-field action up to 46 seconds after it actually happened. While this might not be a big deal if you’re sitting in front of your TV with social media turned off, but it could be fairly annoying to have your Twitter feed blow up because of a fumble while you’re still watching the 40 seconds of gameplay that led up to that moment. Phenix measured the streaming lag — which varied significantly by service — by setting up a booth at the game itself, so it could see the difference between live and streamed action.
According to Reelgood.com, those millions who chose not to watch the game weren’t exactly outside getting fresh air (unless they lived in New Orleans). Here are the shows that people found more interesting than gridiron warriors and Maroon 5:
- Polar (Netflix)
- IO (Netflix)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (Netflix)
- Incredibles 2 (Netflix)
- FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)
- Sex Education (Netflix)
- T@gged (Hulu)
- True Detective (HBO)
- Vikings (Prime, Hulu)
- Game of Thrones (HBO)
- You (Netflix)
- The history of the Madden Curse
- Netflix vs. Amazon Prime Video
- Cut the cord: How to quit cable for online streaming video
- How much does Netflix cost? A breakdown of the streamer’s plans
- How to watch the 2021 Super Bowl, with or without cable