Skip to Main Content

Sports Streaming: Analyzing Super Bowl 50

By: Andy Cooper

Much of the discussion entering Super Bowl 50 centered on quarterbacks of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers; however, neither Peyton Manning nor Cam Newton threw for a touchdown, as both players were intercepted once and fumbled twice, with Newton’s first fumble resulting in a Denver touchdown. The Broncos went on to win the contest 24-10 in a game that would be best described as ‘one for the purists’; however, the broadcasting figures for the event were more encouraging from the newer platform for sports viewing.

In total, 111.9 million people watched the broadcast on CBS in what represented a decline in viewership from the last two Super Bowls. The Broncos-Panthers contest trailed both Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, which drew a US television record 114.4 million viewers, as well as Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seahawks and Broncos (112.2 million viewers). That said, Super Bowl 50 ranks third among the most watch broadcasts in US television history, as Super Bowls occupy the top seven spots in the list.

Yet while television saw a decline in viewers, online streaming set several records, CBS has announced. The unique viewing audience rose to 3.96 million for Super Bowl 50, up from Super Bowl XLIX’s 2.5 million online viewers, an increase of over 58 percent.

Yet records didn’t stop there, as the average audience per minute, average number of minutes watching the steam per user and the total minutes of digital consumption for Super Bowl 50 all showed an increase on Super Bowl XLIX, as the increases were far from insignificant.

So while cord cutting isn’t hitting television’s viewing numbers considerably just yet, the popularity of live streaming in the US continues to grow. Whereas, it can’t exactly be considered to be a rival at this point, as the lure of the big screen with a group of friends still takes precedence over online viewing, if the cost of cable subscriptions continues to grow, the number of people cutting the cord is likely to follow suit. The NFL has known the potential of online stream following a $1 billion streaming deal with Verizon that will end after Super Bowl LI, and increasing streaming viewing figures will likely factor into the value of the renewal. Furthermore, FOX, who will broadcast next year’s Super Bowl, will likely factor in these growing number of online viewers when pricing its web advertising, albeit at a much lower cost than television advertising for the event.

Television still has the convenience factor that helps draw in viewers over live streaming, yet the percentage of people watching the Super Bowl online has increased from 2.1 percent to 3.4 percent in just a year – as almost 1.5 million additional people chose to stream the event in comparison to this time last year. It may not sound like a lot in the overall figures of people, but as cord cutting continues, streaming could very easily take over as the primary option for sports viewing in the not-to-distant future – even for the biggest events in sport.