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Why Examining the Initial Super Bowl Ratings Causes Confusion

One analyst doesn’t necessarily think a downward trend in ratings will continue, but he does believe more than ever the Super Bowl will depend on matchups.



Photo credit: NFL Events

A perfect storm helped bring in the lowest Super Bowl ratings in a decade.

Low scores and a clouded NFL image likely contributed to the low Super Bowl ratings, according to Vince Gennaro, the dean at New York University Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport. 

Nielsen reported a preliminary 41.1 U.S. household rating for New England Patriots’ 13-3 win against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, the lowest in a decade when the Steelers took on the Cardinals in 2009. Nielsen’s preliminary estimates drew 98.2 million viewers with the event viewed in 67 percent of U.S. homes.

On the digital side, though, CBS reported digital-viewing records.

Gennaro was surprised by the low ratings, considering a five-percent bump in regular-season ratings against last season.

“After one- or two-year doldrums for regular seasons, this year, there was a surge,” Gennaro said. “I attribute that to the product on the field being phenomenal. I thought maybe that would carry over and make it a top Super Bowl.”

The Super Bowl, however, did not set any ratings on fire. Gennaro said that could be, in part, because the New England Patriots and Tom Brady are an acquired taste and despite Los Angeles’ huge market, the Rams still don’t have a massive foothold in Southern California after the team’s move from St. Louis.

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Gennaro also believes CBS didn’t get its full value out of Tony Romo, who garnered plenty of praise in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Romo has set a new standard for football analysis, Gennaro said. His insight is a draw for cerebral and casual fans alike, but the Super Bowl transcends sports fans and has historically been a cultural event.

The luster hasn’t diminished as a cultural event, but there are the clouds looming over the NFL that Gennaro said might draw non-fans away from the Super Bowl, ranging from CTE storylines, to the national anthem controversy, to domestic-abuse issues. As the NFL has been a ratings giant compared to other leagues, Gennaro said it has the most to lose and is relatively struggling compared to other sports like soccer, basketball and esports in the Gen Z demographic.

“These negatives could drive them to the sidelines and pass on the event,” he said. “They still have work to do in rebuilding their image, especially with young people.”

Also of concern in the ratings for casual fans was a lackluster halftime show and uneventful ads, which had become an annual draw for many to the game, said Gennaro, who spent 20 years with Pepsi — including stints in marketing.

“I felt a lot of the ads lacked the eye-popping nature they’ve been known to have,” he said. “There’s something about that. More and more ads each year also are for movies and events opposed to products.”

The constant bombardment of NFL content also likely doesn’t help the Super Bowl scheduled viewing. What used to be appointment viewing on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights has since added Sunday nights, Thursday nights and, in December, Saturdays. Add in a 24/7 news cycle around the sport — and the content can be draining, leaving Gennaro to wonder if it’s “chipping away at the ritual.”

The initial Nielsen overnight Super Bowl ratings check in on the major markets — New Orleans, perhaps predictably, was down — and official ratings come out later this week.

Streaming numbers are quickly rising, however, as this year CBS reported 2.6 million average-minute audience — an increase of 31 percent from last year. Last week, CBS ran aggressive on-the-ground programming in Atlanta on CBS Sports HQ, and CBS All Access experienced single-day records on Sunday, including an 84-percent increase in subscriber signups and a 46-percent increase in unique viewers.

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Prior to the game, a PCMag and Sports Illustrated poll found 33 percent of 18-24-year-olds planned to stream the game this year; 15 percent of the overall responses planned to stream Super Bowl LIII.

Despite slight declining Super Bowl ratings the past few years, Gennaro doesn’t necessarily think the trend will continue, but he does believe more than ever the Super Bowl will depend on matchups. Nielsen’s historical Super Bowl ratings do include several down years with ratings near 40 in the early 2000s, before a steady climb to 2015’s 47.5. 

“There was a time when the Super Bowl was immune to the storylines,” he said. “I think we’re getting to the point where (fans will ask), ‘Is it going to (have) Pat Mahomes?’

“Those things count now.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at


Bartending, Country Music and Kay Adams’ Relentless Path to Success

The ‘Good Morning Football’ host took a number of odds jobs before finding her place in sports media. Now, it feels like Kay Adams is everywhere.

Jeff Eisenband




Photo via Kay Adams

It feels like Kay Adams is everywhere.

Turn on NFL Network for “Good Morning Football,” there she is. Turn on DirecTV “Fantasy Zone” on Sundays, there she is. Watch DAZN, there she is.

It is easy for young people in media to look up to Adams. She’s smart, confident and successful. But getting here was not a cakewalk, as Adams can explain.

“My parents grew up in Poland and immigrated over here and had a crazy work ethic,” Adams says. “It was, ‘Work as hard as you can and we can’t afford to pay for college, so you’re gonna have to get a scholarship’ mentality. Once I was on my own, I had to pay for school.”

Adams knew she wanted to work in media while attending Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago. She wrote for the school paper, turned science projects into video reports and turned a presentation on “Romeo & Juliet” into a modern reenactment.

“I thought about entertainment news, but then I got into actually got to thinking what the daily grind of that would look like, sizing up the Kardashians all day every day, and it didn’t seem meaningful to me,” she says of her high school self.

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Adams went to the University of Missouri, but paying her own way in college meant taking on a ton of outside work, some glorious and some not-as-glorious.

“I worked at a bar, so i could actually have money,” she says. “It was a sports bar, where guys would come in — girls too — and I would casually talk sports with them. I always loved it. I had a brother that was two years older than me that got me really interested in that. I knocked on every door in Columbia, Missouri. I went for journalism. I quickly found out I didn’t want to do hardcore journalism. I was more interested in some more editorial things.

“I knocked on a women’s door and I said, ‘Do you have any spots open?’ She said, ‘We have a country radio music spot open from midnight to 6 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays. Do you want it? Do you like country music?’ I couldn’t even say honky-tonk, but I was like, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ I studied, killed it, did that about a year until I weaseled my way into the top 40 station. Then, at three in the morning, I’d go to get coffee and the ESPN guys who had the radio station next door, we’d talk about the St. Louis Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs and they’d invite me at two in the morning to come in and talk sports.

“It’s dead air, and I would do that. That sort of grew my career. After that, SiriusXM was launching their fantasy sports station. I launched the station with them, from St. Louis. I had an ISDN Box that I would plug into and I was part of a show, as they were looking to cast a female talent to be part of their show.”

If you’re wondering what bar Adams is talking about, it’s Willie’s Pub and Pool in Columbia. She handled the 3-8 p.m. happy hour.

As for her academics, Adams started in journalism but moved more into communications.

“I had to figure out what I wanted. I thought I wanted to be Giuliana Rancic, but no, I wanted to be Kay Adams,” she says.

One of Adams’ early gigs was as the in-stadium host at Busch Stadium, a role she basically talked her way into.

“I’d be knocking on the St. Louis Cardinals’ door until they hired me,” she says. “I cannot tell you how many emails I sent the local NBC affiliate in St. Louis saying let me do this. I’ll create this. I’ll do it for free. I wanted to work for pennies, for peanuts. The Cardinals basically paid me in beer to be there for seven-hour rain delays and I bartended to make up for that. My advice is there’s not really an excuse because there’s not really a thing where if you have money, you’re gonna make it, and it’s not a thing where you need to have all the talent. I know that I’ll make it if I outwork the person to my left and my right.”

Even now, with Adams having a stable job, she won’t stop working. She didn’t take a vacation this past year. “Good Morning Football” is making sure NFL fans see the sport as a 365-day-a-year affair and Adams is committed to that. She’s not about to put her success out for chance.

OK, one more story from Adams:

“It really comes down to a relentless (mindset) you have to have and a willingness to not care about the door getting slammed in your face. I, at one point, showed up to the local affiliate at NBC because they wouldn’t answer my emails. I remember his name. His name was Adam. I was like, ‘You have to let me do this.’ He was hesitant. It was a website called Metromix. It was like a lifestyle website. It was like a Thrillist back in the day. I taught myself all this editing stuff to put together like, ‘This is what to do around St. Louis on St. Patrick’s Day.’ I put a couple together and showed them and he put them up.”

Adams also instructed Front Office Sports not to look up these embarrassing videos, but we are doing our best to find them. Metromix, then a partner of KSDK-TV, ceased operations in St. Louis in December 2011.

Adams, who worked in both the St. Louis and New England markets, is busy during Super Bowl week, on and off air. On Radio Row, she spoke on behalf of Olay, one of her sponsors. Over the summer, Adams took Olay’s “28-Day Challenge,” using Olay products for 28 straight days before walking the runway for New York Fashion Week with no makeup on.

“I was nervous, I was insecure and then I used the products for the 28 days, I got up there and there was so much support from Olay, from P&G, from these awesome brave, fearless, confident, wonderful, driven women that we all got up there together and I feel like it kind of changed me,” Adams says.

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On game day, Sarah Michelle Gellar will star in a Super Bowl commercial for Olay, while Adams, Gellar, Aly Raisman and other Olay Women will watch the game together from a Mercedes-Benz Stadium suite.

Adams’ parents were immigrants from Poland. On Sunday, she’ll watch the most high-profile live event in the continent with an Olympic gold medalist and an Emmy Award winner, among others.

And she has some final advice for those needing guidance:

“Outwork everyone; take any job. Take the country radio music station job from 12-6 a.m. Don’t turn down the internship. Go for that too. Diversify as much as you can.”

Kay Adams isn’t here for your excuses, and you shouldn’t be there for them either.

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What CBS Sports HQ Hopes to Accomplish During Super Bowl Week in Atlanta

CBS Sports HQ will be on the ground in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII with more than 30 hours of live streaming content during the week.




Photo via CBS

CBS Sports HQ begins a massive stretch of streaming Super Bowl coverage next week.

With a variety of on-site programming in Atlanta, the event offers CBS Sports HQ the ability to effectively launch its second year with a major hook — and test out on-site programming. CBS Sports HQ is the company’s 24/7 streaming sports news network, available for free across a variety of digital platforms.

“This is the biggest investment in any event we have made,” said Jeff Gerttula, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Sports Digital. “CBS Sports HQ has tools we haven’t had in the past, and it’s exposure for a great product that fits a need for more fans. It’s a great showcase for us and shows everything we have across the board.”

Starting Monday, January 28, CBS Sports HQ will air more than 30 hours of live programming from Atlanta leading up to the game. Its daily morning show, “Kanell and Bell,” hosted by Danny Kanell and Raja Bell, will be on site each day. “Pick 6 Rundown” brings to life a podcast Monday through Friday, and “Reiter’s Block” will air each day from Radio Row.

Leading up to Super Bowl LIII, CBS Sports HQ will show 10 hours of pregame coverage — and following the game, a live postgame show will air.

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Gerttula said the network knows the fans want the hours of extra programming around the year’s largest sporting event, so with the newfound ability to offer it to viewers, it’s a no-brainer to capitalize on the access and production ability on the ground in Atlanta.

The programming, for the most part, doesn’t deviate from the standard weekly programming on CBS Sports HQ, but it does provide an inside look at the week in Atlanta and offers more brand awareness at the event while engaging more people.

The Super Bowl itself will be streamed across platforms, including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

“We’re able to reach more fans on televisions,” Gerttula said. “The cord-cutting audience can access something that’s free and easy to consume.”

Along with spreading the product further, CBS Sports HQ also gives the network an ability to produce more and better digital content than in the past. A 24/7 streaming network helps give the network’s sports programming an additional outlet for content when in the past it was limited to TV and radio allowed times.

The Super Bowl week coverage will kick off another year — it launched Feb. 28, 2018 — of learning for the young streaming network, Gerttula said. Logistically, this week the network will seem normal on the stream, but massive operations-team execution will be happening in Atlanta, setting up for what essentially is a test of future capabilities.

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“This is the first chance for us to flex operational muscles and produce things we couldn’t have done three years ago,” Gerttula said. “The beauty of this space is we’re always learning and experimenting. The data is real time. So when we have ideas, we can test them and we see the results.

“We’re going to learn a lot in year two, starting with the Super Bowl.”

Gerttula said the week in Atlanta will potentially be something they extend to other major sporting events, but how often is to be determined.

“We’ll be opportunistic,” he said. “We want to play to our strengths where we feel we can do something unique. It’s not something we’ll do all the time, but where we have an opportunity and can take advantage of it.”

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Saturday Nights Evolving Into Marquee NBA Night for ESPN and ABC

ESPN’s increased emphasis on NBA Saturday Primetime — paired with the NBA’s drama-filled season thus far — appears to be the formula for successful ratings.

Bailey Knecht




Image via ESPN Media Zone

Back for its fourth season, ESPN’s NBA Saturday Primetime will premiere this Saturday on ABC with a matchup between two of the league’s flashiest franchises in the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.

“I think you’re going to see a great presentation of NBA basketball from a production standpoint, and from a standpoint of the best the NBA has to offer, in terms of teams and players,” said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisitions at ESPN. “It really encapsulates everything that’s great about the NBA.”

The series will continue throughout the rest of the season, with a marquee matchup on ABC each Saturday. This week, the Rockets and Lakers face off with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Lisa Salters leading the broadcast crew.

“The league itself does great job collaborating with us and working on the schedule,” White said. “If anything, in terms of the way the league works with us, it’s that we’ve been able to make sure we put a good product forth for our viewers and fans.”

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Saturday will also feature a matinee version of NBA Saturday Primetime with a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, called by Mark Jones, Hubie Brown and Israel Gutierrez.

“You never know what’s going to happen that far out, but what you can probably say is that some of the teams you see on Saturday nights will be the teams in contention, and will be the teams — in all likelihood — vying once we get to the playoffs,” White said.

The usual NBA Countdown crew of Michelle Beadle, Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups and Jalen Rose will hold down the fort during pregame and halftime each night.

Despite this Saturday being the first broadcast of NBA Saturday Primetime this season, White said that the ESPN team is in full swing, from its producers to its broadcasters.

“It’s not practice for us,” he said. “These are real, live games, and although the Finals is the culmination of everything, our guys already have their chemistry down, from Mark Jackson, Mike Breen, Lisa Salters, Doris Burke—they’ve all worked together for a number of years.”

Between the NFL’s Monday Night Football and MLB’s Sunday Night Baseball, certain days of the week have essentially become synonymous with big-time matchups in other professional leagues. Though NBA games receive high ratings when they are broadcast on the popular networks like ESPN, ABC and TNT, there hasn’t traditionally been one major matchup of the week like in the NFL and MLB.

That’s why, as White explained, ESPN has made it a goal to turn Saturday night into the primary must-watch time slot for NBA fans.

“Definitely, from our standpoint, this is our marquee night of the week, and we treat it as such,” he said. “We do put some additional bells and whistles on it, so it does stand out a little bit from a presentation standpoint.”

So far this season, ESPN and ABC have been a powerhouse pairing during NBA broadcasts, with ABC averaging 7,100,000 viewers (up five percent from last season) and ESPN averaging 1,761,000 viewers. Although ESPN’s numbers are down 4 percent from last season, the network has seen a seven percent increase from two years prior at this time of the year.

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“We’re all part of the Walt Disney company, so we work very much in tandem with our ABC stations,” White said. “It’s pretty seamless, and we’ve been doing it for so long together… We’ve learned that people will tune in, and people will come for big-time matchups, and that Saturday night is a great platform to present that to fans.”

Although it’s yet to be determined what the final viewership numbers will look like at the end of this season, ESPN’s increased emphasis on NBA Saturday Primetime — paired with the NBA’s drama-filled season thus far — appears to be the formula for successful ratings.

“We’re bullish on this year and the NBA overall,” White said. “It’s a very healthy league, and it’s popular with the fans and all demos. We think, for this year in particular, it’s an exciting year. There’s been great drama that gets played out. It’s like a gift that you unwrap all season long to find out who will be there at the end.”

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