Is Super Bowl counter-programming worth it? Yes and no.
There’s been a long-running debate over whether Super Bowl counter-programming on game day is worth it. The broadcast networks have largely abandoned such attempts.
Still, while the game pulls massive ratings every year, a little over a quarter of people watching television aren’t tuned in to the Super Bowl.
Cable networks continue to try to woo them. Sometimes they’re successful. Sometimes they’re not. It’s always illuminating to see what works.
This year, Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl” was clearly in the success column. The afternoon program, now in its 13th year, showcases pups up for adoption.
Sunday’s broadcast averaged 2.47 million total viewers, according to Nielsen, up 12 percent from last year’s 2.2 million. It also drew a 0.8 adults 18-49 rating, improving by a tenth over last year.
It was cable’s most-watched program of the day.
Ranking No. 5 for the day on cable in the demo? A repeat of “Family Guy” on Adult Swim, which posted a 0.6 in the demo at 10:30 p.m., just as ratings for the Super Bowl were peaking after overtime.
Clearly those two were cable’s big winners. But other game day programming didn’t fare nearly as well.
The lessons from these numbers? First, it helps if you have an established past. The “Puppy Bowl” has become a Super Bowl day tradition. The four-year-old “Fish Bowl” clearly has not.
Second, some degree of consistency helps. Adult Swim runs “Family” repeats every single day. Just because it’s Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t mean people will forego their favorite show, so keeping schedules as expected may be a smart strategy.
And finally, it helps to air your event earlier in the day – the “Puppy Bowl” got a two-hour head start on the “Kitten Bowl,” which kicked off just an hour before the Super Bowl.
In cable ratings for the week ended Feb. 5:
Top five networks in primetime (18-49s): USA, TBS, ESPN, Discovery Channel, HGTV.
Top five networks in primetime (total viewers): Fox News Channel, HGTV, USA, MSNBC, TBS.
Top five total-day networks (total viewers): Fox News Channel, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, HGTV, CNN, Adult Swim.
Top cable news networks in primetime (total viewers): Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, HLN, CNN.
Top cable news programs (total viewers): 1. Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” (Tuesday, 8 p.m.); 2. Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” (Wednesday, 8 p.m.); 3. Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” (Thursday, 8 p.m.); 4. Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Tuesday, 9 p.m.); 5. Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” (Monday, 8 p.m.)
Top movie (total viewers): Disney Channel’s “Monsters University,” (Friday, 6:10 p.m.) 2.53 million.
Top sporting event (total viewers): TNT’s “NBA Basketball” (Thursday, 10:38 p.m.) 2.36 million.
Show on the rise: HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” Tuesday, 9 p.m. The program averaged 3.71 million total viewers, up 28 percent from 2.90 million the previous week.
Show on the decline: VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop,” Monday, 8 p.m. The reality show slipped 12 percent week-to-week among total viewers, from 2.72 million to 2.39 million.