The New England Patriots' miracle victory over the Seattle Seahawks was the most-watched Super Bowl of all time, with an estimated 114.5 million viewers. That rating only takes people watching on regular television into account, but a survey done before the game suggests that was how the vast majority of people watched it.
Despite Comcast-owned (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC streaming the game for free online, a survey conducted by Consumer Electronics Association showed that relatively few people planned to take advantage of it, Broadcast and Cable reported on Jan. 30. The same survey showed that social media, while it does claim a percentage of the viewing audience, has a long way to go before it supplants (or even challenges) actually watching a major event.
This suggests that while online viewership, social media activity, and digital streaming has increased, traditional TV is not in a death spiral and big events still bring audiences to the big screen.
What people said they'd do
Of the 79% of adults who said they planned to watch the game, 71% said they planned to watch it live on TV, while only 5% said they planned to watch it live online, according to the CEA survey. The remaining 24% of the viewing audience claimed plans split between a number of different ways to follow the action.
Eight percent planned to watch clips or highlights, but on a traditional TV, while another 8% planned to follow the action on Twitter or Facebook. Another 6% expected to watch online clips while 5% said they would DVR it for later viewing. So, add the 71% watching live on traditional TV, to the 8% watching television clips and the 5% watching it via DVR and that's 84% of the total audience expected to have used traditional TV.
The survey, Sports and Technology Study, 6th Edition, was administered by a Web form among "a demographically representative online U.S. sample of 1,014 adults between January 7-12, 2015."
People like to watch TV
The CEA survey found that 43% of fans would rather watch the game at home than attend it in person. That may be because people are investing in new and better televisions.
"One-third of consumers planning to buy a television will seek to increase screen size or improve picture quality when purchasing their new TVs," according to a different CEA research paper. "Case in point, unit shipments of 4K UHD displays are projected to reach four million in 2015 (a 208% increase)."
Streaming may be growing in popularity as an alternate to a traditional viewing experience, but for many, the premium TV opportunity looks likely to come through an impressively big TV hooked to a cable box.
Social media is a threat
Perhaps the most peculiar number found by CEA was the percentage of people willing to follow the game solely on social media. Though it seems odd to older folks who traditionally watch something before commenting on it, younger people no longer seem compelled by the same limitations.
And, if there is anything that broadcast media companies should worry about, it is a world where commentary is no longer reliant on actually seeing the content commented on.
To someone who grew up on traditional television (where you watch first, then complain online) the idea of having an opinion based solely on Twitter pictures or Facebook posts seems absurd. But it's a growing trend that could cut into TV's audience.
TV remains king
Despite the growing alternatives traditional TV has not suffered, at least not yet.
Super Bowl XLIX drew a historic 114.5 million viewers, Deadline reported. That audience surged to 120.8 million viewers from 9:45-10 p.m. during the fourth quarter. The game was the most-watched television program in the U.S., topping the 112.2 million people who watched last year's game between Seattle and Denver.
So, while streaming, social media, and other TV-alternatives may someday cut into the viewing audience, that has not happened yet. Like the New England Patriots, broadcast television remains the champion.