Television ratings suggest big game was Super Bore

By Howard Fendrich

The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Too much defense, too many punts, too big a competitive gap between the teams.

Nothing seemed to go CBS Sports’ way during Sunday’s Super Bowl, dragging the television rating down to one of the event’s lowest in 30 years. The network’s bottom line won’t suffer, though.

The telecast of the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-7 victory over the New York Giants drew a 40.3 national rating with a record-low 60 share.

That means an average of 40.3 percent of the country’s TV homes were watching at any given moment, while 60 percent of in-use televisions were tuned to the game.

The lowest previous share for any Super Bowl was 61, in 1999 (on Fox) and in 1992 (the last time CBS televised the game).

The rating for the Ravens-Giants game was down 7 percent from last year’s Super Bowl on ABC, and slightly higher than the 40.2 for 1999, when the Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-19.

The only other Super Bowl since 1971 with a lower rating was the 1990 game, which drew a 39.0 on CBS as the San Francisco 49ers smashed the Broncos 55-10.

Still, CBS estimates 131.2 million people watched at least part of the 2001 Super Bowl.

And the network had not promised a minimum rating to advertisers, who paid an average of more than $2 million per 30-second commercial.

“We’re absolutely thrilled from every standpoint, from the pregame to the game to halftime to the phenomenal amount of people who stuck around for `Survivor,’ ” said Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports. “Other than having some control over the score, I don’t think I would have done anything differently.”

Big sports events have been getting declining ratings lately.

The Sydney Games drew the worst ratings for an Olympics since 1968, while the World Series ratings were the lowest ever, and the NCAA men’s basketball title game dropped 18 percent from 1999, which was the previous low since CBS started airing the event in 1982.

The Super Bowl is often the most-watched TV program each year, and nine of the 15 highest-rated shows in history are NFL championship games. Sunday’s game doesn’t crack the top 50.

It didn’t get much of a boost from having a team from New York, where the rating was 40.9 – about average for the country’s largest markets. Tampa registered a 51.2, followed by Baltimore’s 49.1.

The overall drop from last year’s Super Bowl is not surprising.

Sunday’s game was decided by the third quarter, and ratings steadily declined during the last hour of the broadcast. The St. Louis Rams’ 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in 2000 came down to the final play.

And while last year’s game featured the Rams’ big-play offense, neither Baltimore nor New York was particularly efficient when it had the ball. The teams combined for the fewest yards in a Super Bowl, and the game’s 21 punts shattered the old mark.

CBS continued to draw viewers after the on-field action ended, registering a 28.7 rating and 43 share for about 20 minutes of postgame coverage. The season premiere of “Survivor” followed, and drew a national rating of 23.6 with a 38 share.