How BIG is the Super Bowl? (INFOGRAPHIC)

By Staff

Feb 01, 2012

Each year, one lucky TV network gets to pad its stats with the biggest broadcast of the season: The Super Bowl doesn't just determine the best squad of gigantic men who can throw, catch, and kick a football, it also determines which network executives will take the most money baths for the year.

For networks, there are three main components of broadcasting the Super Bowl. First, there are the ratings, which are so big they can vault a network up in the standings based on just three hours' worth of programming. Super Bowls this century have routinely cracked the list of the most-watched broadcasts in history (21 of the 45 most-watched broadcasts have been Super Bowls), and last year's game holds the record for most viewers in U.S. television history. That will likely be bested this year.

Super Bowl commercials are also a big business, and with upwards of 80 spots to sell at a record-setting $4 million dollars (estimated) a pop, they provide a nice payday.

Finally, networks also use the game to boost their other programming. The coveted post-Super Bowl time slot is awarded to one lucky show a year, and often yields the biggest audience the program will ever see.

We've compiled some stats in all three of these categories to show you just how ginormous the Super Bowl is and put them into pretty infographic to make the numbers easier to digest.

Click the image to open the full-size, hi-res version in a new window.

The 2012 Super Bowl airs this Sunday on NBC. This year's lead-out is the Season 2 premiere of The Voice.

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  • JT_Kirk Feb 06, 2012

    1) This is an article about US ratings, US networks, a US sports league, and the US commercials they air. That has to do with foreigners watching futbol in their own countries exactly nothing.

    2) Soccer is not a sport. If you can train any number of animals or program a miniature robot to play it, it's not a sport, it's just kicking a ball around the grass. But whatever keeps you guys from going to war with each other every 4 years by settling pointless arguments over 2 goals scored over 3 hours, so I guess it has SOME purpose.

    3) I think it's hilarious that more on average people watch House than the biggest game of the NHL. That said, being a fan of Community, I guess those numbers are even poorer, so now haw haw on me.

    4) What's with the stunning jump in price from last year's ad slots to this? Is it that it's the Pats vs the Giants?

    5) I don't understand any network that uses the Superbowl to lead into a show that has zero in common with its audience, like Glee and The Voice and Grey's Anatomy. You could be hitting a rock-solid targeted show, but instead you waste in on a series that will almost certainly get ignored after its 1 big bump (and is probably only getting those big post-Superbowl ratings because nobody turned off the TV while everybody was eating, partying, or pooping).

  • Synetech Feb 06, 2012

    I wouldn't know about the famous Super Bowl commercials; like all commercials, in Canada they are replaced by Canadian commercials, even if we watch the program on an American channel instead of the Canadian affiliate.

  • Spoontown Feb 06, 2012

    Go alminhas3434, lay some truth on this US-centric website, they should also have to call American Football by that name.

    Although the Olympics probably beats the World Cup Final I would guess, and if everyone in India had a TV then Cosmicdust would be right cricket is easily the sport with the biggest support by virtue of India alone.

    As for the Super Bowl I don't get it, the appeal for maybe 80% of the viewers is non-existent, yay a team I don't support will beat another team I don't support and get all the glory, whoo-hoo!! Whereas the world cup I get, the winner is the best team in the world, the winner of the Superbowl is the best team in the US, oh hang on no one else really plays American Football do they........

  • alminhas3434 Feb 05, 2012

    You are jocking right?? the most watched broadcast in history?? With over 3.5 billion fans, football (or soccer) is undeniably the most watched sport in the world. Football has the maximum stadiums, greatest numbers of people buying football merchandise, number of competitions and events held such as the world cup, UEFA League, American Cup, etc. Also there are the maximum number of teams, leagues and clubs for football all over the world. The current football world cup 2010 has about 715.1 million people who watched the final. It is the world's most widely viewed sports event today.

  • amvivin Feb 06, 2012

    715 million is laughable number when it comes to India.where cricket match views are in billions.agreed that india has a gigantic population.but still just putting it out there.only thing is american football isnt that popular internationally though.although id really love to see an international football event.

  • Cosmicdust Feb 05, 2012

    The india pakistan cricket match had a billion people watch!

  • lamloum86 Feb 05, 2012

    it was US television history!!!!

  • Cosmicdust Feb 05, 2012

    I do enjoy watching the super bowl every year but i do not believe the writers of this article are correct when they say it is the most watched broadcast in history. I believe the india vs pakistan world cup cricket match had over a billion viewers making it a world record. My only dilemma with the super-bowl is not knowing who to root for!

  • smithinjapan Feb 05, 2012

    Didn't the opening of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 also have a world-record high number of people tune in? Anyway, I think they are talking more about stats for the US (they would have to be), as well as on an annual basis (as opposed to singular events).

    Still, I'll pass. It just sucks that the networks are airing other shows AROUND the Super Bowl.

  • platoonist Feb 04, 2012

    Ever heard of UEFA Champions League Final? Now that's a television event for the whole world...except for Americans of course.

  • timmay_x Feb 05, 2012

    "The 2010-11 competition attracted more than 500 million television viewers in Europe, 230 million in the Americas, 190 million in Africa and over 130 million in Asia. 178.7 million viewers watched the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final"

    One single match, however, to top that is El Clasico (FC Barcelona v Real Madrid), which averages 500 million viewers each time it is played.

  • hogwash13777 Feb 02, 2012

    To the staff that wrote this: I think the 17.4 million viewers for The Office in 08-09 looks a bit fishy. Not only does Criminal Minds have the same amount, but looking back at that season numbers, it could not have averaged that much more than 10 million, even including the 22.9MM number.

  • GreenyFool Feb 02, 2012

    As a non-American, I really don't get the obsession with this sport. I actually just learned that the Super Bowl day is a de facto national holiday! Crazy stuff.

  • EricPorvaznik Feb 03, 2012

    It's OK. While I'm one of the few US residents who actually looks forward to the World Cup, most of my fellow countrymen (and women) don't understand the world's obsession with non-US football.

  • charmedfan93 Feb 02, 2012

    As an American, I still don't understand the obsession with the sport. I simply put up with it in the hope that the commercials are good.

  • AdeleTeras Feb 02, 2012


  • safibwana Feb 02, 2012

    The only reason I notice the superbowl is that it takes an unusually long time to have a sub or a pizza delivered that day.

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