The Super Bowl may be 'the greatest show on Earth' – but is Britain bothered?
Super Bowl Sunday – the biggest day in American sport and, along with the Champions League final, the most-viewed programme around the world each year.
Which of these two is bigger depends on your chosen source but, suffice it to say, ‘big deals’ would be putting it mildly – they’re hugely important events in worldwide TV.
Does Britain care though? The figures show that, whereas UK viewing of the Champions League final can peak at more than 12m when an English team is playing, and more than half that with no English involvement, Super Bowl figures have always been fairly modest in this part of the world, aside from a brief spike of interest in the 1980s.
Is it likely to grow more? Very likely.
Channel 4, for the first time since 1998, along with Sky Sports will be bringing us footage of the event this Sunday. A considerable amount of work has gone into building social hype in the run-up and Channel 4 is celebrating the return of the event to its channel with a novelty website, www.supersickie.com, inspiring funny excuses for skiving work after staying up too late, and a Spotify playlist to accompany the ensuing ‘Duvet Day’.
Rather than tailoring the event to a UK audience, the broadcaster aims to keep the experience as authentic as possible for UK viewers, running a commercial break with the exact same adverts featured in Fox’s coverage. Which brings us round to advertising.
For many of us, the ads are almost as big a part of the Super Bowl coverage as the event itself. Advertisers such as Budweiser even release teasers for their adverts in the build-up to the Sunday final, playing their own role in amplifying consumer anticipation of the event.
However, although Fox will be charging a reported $4m for a 30-second spot, audience size and advertiser demand in the UK means UK brands will not contribute more than a fraction of that amount to be involved in the action – our current level of interest just doesn’t warrant that.
Watch this space though: we’re beginning to get there.
31 years after Channel 4 first brought the USA’s National Football League into our front rooms; Britain’s excitement about ‘Gridiron’ football is gradually beginning to build.
Since Wembley started hosting NFL games in late 2007, viewing figures have seen a marked upward curve, with the UK average viewing of the 2008 Super Bowl up a whole third on the previous year. Indeed, 2012 viewing figures hit their highest peak since 2004, averaging 1.1m viewers and peaking at 1.8m – pretty much double the 2004 numbers.
Last year’s viewing did dip slightly, but there is a clear pattern nonetheless – we are seeing a sustained growth of interest, driven by increased access to NFL event.
Although it would be unfair to use football, the nation’s favourite viewing sport, as a point of comparison, it’s interesting to examine how the Super Bowl compares to something like the Rugby League Challenge Cup final.
The 2013 final on BBC1 of this sporting event attracted a peak audience of just over 1.5m, on a Saturday afternoon, versus the 1.25m peak the combined BBC2 and Sky Sports 1 Super Bowl coverage attracted last year. Bearing in mind the NFL coverage generally runs from 22:30 until London public transport is just about to start, that’s a fairly favourable comparison (although it’s worth noting that these figures do not take into account any online viewing).
Looking ahead, 2014 brings us three NFL games in London – one more than last year; providing the increased access which feeds as well as satisfies demand. Meanwhile, rumours about an existing NFL team relocating to the UK continue to abound, with the Jacksonville Jaguars, owned by Fulham FC owner Shahid Khan, being touted as the favourites.
As New Jersey prepares to host the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos this Sunday in potentially the coldest conditions ever for the showpiece, it’s fair to say that Britain is definitely warming to the NFL.
Simon Broderick is head of TV at MediaCom UK