America is a divided nation. I’m not just talking about when it comes to who we choose to represent us in government. I’m talking about the choices we make down to as mundane as where we shop for food. But in this world where residents of the United States can never seem to agree, there is one massive event where Americans of all stripes find common ground.
The Super Bowl and the NFL in general seem to bring together Americans in a way few other things can.
In an era of streaming and cable television, most programs capture only a small portion of America’s over 330 million-person population. Last year, the highest non-football program was the State of the Union, which under 40 million Americans watched – the viewership this year was even lower.
When it came to the highest-rated non-sports show on one network, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on NBC took the prize; a mere 22 million Americans tuned into that.
The Super Bowl, meanwhile, was watched by nearly 100 million people on NBC last year. When you combine streaming and Spanish language broadcast, viewership topped 110 million.
Last year was no anomaly either: the Super Bowl has crossed the 100 million viewership threshold over 10 times. The only non-Super Bowl show ever to hit those numbers was the series finale of M*A*S*H, which aired 40 years ago.
No other non-Super Bowl show has ever come close to that, and I’m not sure it ever will.
The way the Super Bowl is able to unite Americans is a few fold. Part of it has to do with the popularity of football in America (more on that in a second), but there’s a lot more to it.
The Super Bowl is a bunch of shows wrapped into one. It’s the only spectacle I know of where people watch just for the commercials. SSRS polling shows that 24% of people who watch the Super Bowl say their favorite thing about the game is the commercials. No wonder that the price of a 30-second ad is going to cost advertisers about $7 million this year.
The Super Bowl is also a much-raved about music show at halftime. Big stars have been performing at the Super Bowl for over 30 years now. This year, it is Rihanna – who has sold hundreds of millions of records and won nine Grammys – making her live-music return. Over 10% of people who watch the big game say the halftime show is their favorite thing.