Super Bowl up, but postgame sinks; 'Alias' cold
Tue Jan 28, 1:24 AM ET
By Andrew Grossman
NEW YORK (The Hollywood Reporter) --- ABC surpassed most analyst expectations Sunday when an average of 88.6 million viewers tuned in to the Super Bowl, up 5% from a year ago, even though the game had pretty much been decided by halftime and last year's game went down to the final seconds.
The game climaxed an upbeat NFL season in which viewership was generally higher, especially among men. Despite the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 48-21 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders, the game drew a 40.7 household rating/61 share, the highest since ABC's last telecast in 2000 and 1% above the 40.4 posted by Fox last year and by CBS in 2001, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Among adults 18-49, ABC earned a 36.4 rating, 5% better than last year and 2% better than 2001.
Contrary to most conventional wisdom, the game's ratings peaked at the end, from 10-10:18 p.m. EST, with a 42.4/61. Advertisers, who pay a premium for those first-quarter spots, may want to rethink their strategy next year: Ratings grew from a 36.8/62 at 6:30 p.m. and remained within a narrow range between a 40.1 (the halftime show with Shania Twain) and a 41.6 through 10 p.m.
Now the bad news for ABC: Its hopes to get a big bump for "Alias" after the game came crashing down as the drama earned one of the lowest ratings ever for a post-Super Bowl entertainment show, garnering a 10.6/20 with a late 11 p.m. EST start. The show's average of 17.4 million viewers and an 8.3 rating among adults 18-49 also was the lowest in post-Super Bowl history since at least 1988.
ABC also had only so-so sampling for the premiere of its heavily promoted "Jimmy Kimmel Live" talk show, which had a 12:36 a.m. EST start time and averaged a 5.5 rating/14 share in Nielsen's 55 overnight metered markets.
"That was an ABC blunder," said Stacey Lynn Koerner, senior vp and director of broadcast research at Initiative Media. "That wrap-up should have been half as long." She was referring to the postgame show, which ran about 40 minutes.
"I'm a huge 'Alias' fan, and I stopped watching the game after the third quarter," Koerner said. "All I wanted to do was tune in and see 'Alias.' "
The long postgame spectacle was not entirely ABC's fault. The NFL has the last word on entertainment associated with the game -- though ABC is a strong adviser on these matters -- and viewers had to endure a Bon Jovi concert before ABC presented the winning trophies.
Still, ABC professed to be satisfied with the showing for "Alias." "It's a great number," vp audience research Larry Hyams said. "The idea was to relaunch 'Alias' and expose the show to a brand-new audience that possibly hadn't seen it in the past."
The biggest mystery was why such a one-sided game -- the score was 20-3 at halftime -- still drew such a large audience. On Monday, there were lots of theories but few answers.
"The game picked up in the middle of the fourth quarter," Hyams suggested.
Said ABC Sports spokesman Michael Mandel: "Even when the Raiders fell behind, they still have a potent offense. If they come from behind, you didn't want to miss it."
Others said viewers flocked to an alluring Oakland-Tampa Bay matchup that featured several intriguing story lines: Former Oakland coach Jon Gruden now leads Tampa Bay, the game pitted the NFL's best offense against its best defense, and the Raiders have always had a strong national following.