Super Bowl Fumbles With Web Fans

By Jay Lyman

NewsFactor Network

Web coverage proved no match for TV during Sunday’s Super Bowl, but the game’s official Web site drew record numbers, and fans reacted positively to online voting for the game’s MVP.

This year’s Super Bowl XXXV saw a smaller television audience than big games of the past, but the event did spike traffic to, the official Super Bowl Web site, attracting some 359,000 unique visitors on the day of the game, according to audience measurement service Nielsen//Net Ratings.

While that is more than three times the number of Internet users who visited the site the day before the Super Bowl, most viewers logged on just before, just after or during the fourth quarter of the football game, Nielsen//Net Ratings vice president Allen Weiner told NewsFactor Network.

Weiner said that despite the heavy traffic to, the National Football League’s (NFL) title game did not offer anything especially novel to Web fans.

Made for TV

“ had very strong traffic for the day, but it wasn’t the ilk of the [U.S. presidential] election, mostly because the Super Bowl is a TV event,” Weiner said. “It’s not a Web event.”

CBS, which broadcast the Baltimore Ravens’ one-sided 34-7 victory over the New York Giants, garnered approximately 131 million U.S. viewers for the televised game.

Weiner said that in the case of the Super Bowl, the Web site played a supporting role to the television broadcast of the game.

“I don’t think that the Super Bowl is designed to drive traffic to the Web site,” he said.

Wider Audience

There may not have been huge numbers of people watching the big game on their computer screens, but just as the typical football television audience is widened with the Super Bowl, so too was the big game’s Web audience, Weiner told NewsFactor.

“We did a comparison of traffic on compared to a profile of the average sports person,” he said. “On TV, the Super Bowl gets more than the typical male sports guy — and the Web did too, with more women, more older people and more educated people.”

And while there was more Web traffic for this year’s Superbowl, the dot-com domination of television advertising from last year’s game was long gone. The Nielsen//Net Ratings showed that this year, brick-and-mortar companies accounted for 41 percent of Super Bowl advertisers.

Still, some technology firms invested heavily in Super Bowl ads, with “Digital Economy” advertisers accounting for 47 percent of the game’s television commercials.

Interactive Prospects

Nielsen//Net Ratings reports that’s traffic quadrupled when television viewers were called on to vote for the game’s Most Valuable Player during the fourth quarter.

“As the Web and TV exist as disparate forces in today’s global media stage, it takes a strong call to action to transform viewers into surfers,” Weiner said. “The Web’s ability to give fans the opportunity to cast their cyber ballots obviously hit a nerve and sets the tone for other similar TV-to-Web interactions.”

Weiner said a Super Bowl or World Series on interactive television may be 3 or 4 years away, but the prospect holds great promise for advertisers and e-commerce.

“When you do have interactive TV, you can take advantage of it by selling the same championship t-shirts that the guys on the screen are wearing,” Weiner said. “It becomes the world’s biggest sports chat while you’re watching the game.”

“That is sort of nirvana,” said Weiner, “for an event like the Super Bowl or World Series.”