There’s a lot of uncertainty heading into Sunday’s NFC and AFC championship games.
But one thing is certain. Officials for CBS and TV advertisers during this year’s Super Bowl will be rooting heartily for the Minnesota Vikings. Or at least they should be.
Whether those same TV executives and advertisers are rooting for the Indianapolis Colts is less clear.
There’s a strong contingent of TV experts who think the best Super Bowl match-up—purely from a ratings standpoint—this year would be Minnesota vs. New York Jets.
“With the Jets, you’d have the entire New York market, the largest media market in the world, covered, and no one draws national attention like Brett Favre,” a CBS official told me this morning.
Well, you can’t argue the Favre factor. In a season where the NFL has earned its highest season-long TV ratings since 1990, the purple-clad man from Mississippi has led the way.
The average NFL regular season game, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research, was watched by 16.6 million people, 2 million more than last year. Favre played in two of the top four most watched games this year. Yes, both were against his old team, Green Bay, but still, you can’t deny his allure.
The Vikings-Packers game Nov. 1 drew 29.8 million viewers, tops this year. That game drew more viewers than any other fall broadcast. The Vikes-Pack game Nov. 30 on ESPN, drew 21.8 million viewers, the most watched cable broadcast ever.
The Favre factor is nothing new. The 1997 and 1998 Super Bowls—the two Favre played in—had TV ratings of 43.3 and 44.5 respectively. Each rating point equals 1.1 million TV households.
For comparison’s sake, last year’s Super Bowl earned a 42.0 rating, and the year before, featuring two huge media markets in New York and New England, notched a 43.1 rating.
So you can see, Favre rocks ratings. And given his many retirements and team changes, he probably would draw even more this year than in previous years.
But what about Peyton Manning? After all, the 2007 Super Bowl featuring the Colts and Bears earned a 42.6 TV rating.
“You can’t discount his star power,” my source at CBS said. He added that the game was bolstered by the size of the Chicago market and the Bears' following nationwide.
“Indianapolis is the 30th largest media market. And for sheer numbers, it just doesn’t hold a candle to New York,” my network source said. "I’m just saying it’s difficult to beat, from a ratings perspective, the drawing power of Favre, and the sheer size of New York.”
Of course, not everyone agrees.
“A match between Peyton Manning and Favre would feature two of the highest-profile quarterbacks ever,” Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president told the Chicago Sun-Times. “So, if I were rooting for the highest-rated game, my vote goes to Indianapolis-Minnesota.”
With the average price of a 30-second spot this year sitting at $3 million, there’s plenty at stake for CBS and its advertisers. High ratings sometimes trigger escalator clauses in ad deals. It’s hard to believe that in 1990, a 30-second Super Bowl spot cost $700,000.
Those high ratings certainly help the NFL when negotiating its next TV deal. And high historical ratings also helps the network pushing those pricey ad spots.