(Recasts with Nielsen confirmation of audience size)
By Helen Coster
Feb 3 (Reuters) - Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast on Fox attracted an average TV audience of 99.9 million people, a 1.7% increase from last year’s U.S. football championship, according to preliminary Nielsen data released on Monday.
Fox, owned by Fox Corp, said the average viewership reached 102 million when the network added people watching a Spanish-language simulcast and streaming the game on Fox, NFL and Verizon platforms.
Although the TV ratings rebounded from the 98.4 million Super Bowl viewers in 2019, the audience ranked as one of the lowest in a decade, the Nielsen data showed. TV viewership for the game peaked at 114.4 million in 2015.
In Miami on Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs’ 24-year-old quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, led his team to a stunning 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers - the Chiefs’ first championship since the 1969 season.
Mahomes was one of the draws for this year’s viewers, as were the commercials and a halftime show featuring performances by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.
“The viewership of the Super Bowl averages about 53% male and 47% female - this year it might have even been closer,” said Dennis Deninger, a professor who teaches sports communication at Syracuse University. “During the regular season those percentages are a bit off. For the Super Bowl there are so many other reasons to tune in. Most people in any society want to be part of what’s happening.”
Ads during the Super Bowl featured another national rivalry: that between two competing presidential candidates. Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg spent up to $11 million each to appeal directly to voters, which was unprecedented in Super Bowl history.
Other notable ads - which averaged up $5.6 million for a 30-second slot this year, according to Fox Corp - included Planters’ mascot Mr. Peanut, who died and was reborn, and football star Tom Brady’s appearance in an ad for streaming service Hulu.
“The Super Bowl is a cultural event more so than it is a sporting event,” said Brandon Brown, a clinical assistant professor of sport management at New York University’s School of Professional Studies. “So you’ll have people who are not sports fans whatsoever tuning into the Super Bowl. The NFL has done a really good job embedding itself into the American culture.” (Reporting by Helen Coster Additional reporting by Sheila Dang and Lisa Richwine Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)