Half-hour comedy series have not been a major post-Super Bowl draw since the heyday of Friends, which drew a massive 52.9 million viewers in 1996, followed by NBC’s 3rd Rock From The Sun (33.7 million) two years later. Since then, comedies airing after the big game have stayed in the low-20 millions: Family Guy (22.0 million in 1999), Malcolm In The Middle (21.4 million in 2002), The Simpsons (23.1 million in 2005) and The Office (22.9 million in 2009). Last night, Fox‘s New Girl did better than all of them, drawing 25.8 million viewers. Rookie comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, followed with 14.8 million. With its young skew, New Girl did particularly well in the demos, posting a 11.1 rating in adults 18-49. (Brooklyn Nine-Nine got a 6.7). New Girl topped last year’s post-Super Bowl entry, CBS drama Elementary, which drew the smallest viewership in the spot in a decade — by 23% in total viewers and by 42% in 18-49. It also edged the previous half-hour comedy to follow the Super Bowl, The Office, by 13% in total viewers.
But here comes the caveat: New Girl aired a half-hour episode vs. an hourlong for most previous sitcoms, including Office, and viewership declines steadily after the end of the game. For the whole hour post-Super Bowl, Fox averaged 20.8 million viewers, just shy (by 64,000) of the delivery of Elementary last year and below the other comedies that aired hourlong episodes. Plus, because of a blackout, Elementary started outside of primetime on the East Coast vs. a 10:23 PM start for New Girl. (Brooklyn got on at 10:54 PM). Like was the case with Elementary last year, the goal for New Girl – owned by Fox sibling 20th TV — was not just getting eyeballs, it was also helping the show sell in syndication, a process currently underway. Elsewhere on Sunday, both NBC and ABC touted year-to-year primetime ratings gains vs. the Super Bowl though no other broadcast network came even close to a 1.0 18-49 rating against the game on Fox.
The networks had largely stayed away from comedies in the post-Super Bowl slot in the past decade, with only two entries, The Simpsons and The Office, before last-night’s Fox combo. The ratings pecking order for programs airing after the Super Bowl in the past few years has been reality, paced by CBS’ Undercover Boss (38.7 million), and drama, led by ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (37.9 million). Here is a tracker of the post-Super Bowl programs in the past two decades: