The Super Bowl’s Lead-Out Programs: Ranked in Total Viewers

While the Atlanta Falcons face the New England Patriots at this year’s Super Bowl on February 5, FOX will be readying to premiere its heavily-promoted 24 reboot after the post-show.

With such a huge tune-in each year for The Super Bowl, the lead-out position has been one of the greatest promotional platforms in all of TV and the broadcast networks — which rotate broadcast rights and use the platform to debut a promising new show, give a boost to a modest hit or showcase their bigger hits.

In the early years, Lassie was the most frequent lead-out (1967, 1968 and 1970) until it was later eclipsed by 60 Minutes (1972, 1980, 1982 and 1992). Since then (with a few exceptions) a variety of sitcoms, dramas, reality shows and most recently, late night shows have cycled through — with only The Simpsons (though the first followed the series premiere of Family Guy in 1999 and isn’t listed below) and Survivor cycling through twice.

Below is a listing of those lead-outs and their viewership in order of highest to lowest (programs for which only share was available will be ranked separately) followed by our customary Notes and Other Observations:

1996 – Friends, “The One After the Super Bowl” – 52.93m

2001 – Survivor: The Australian Outback – 45.37m (season premiere)

1977 – The Big Event, “Raid on Entebbe” – 42.82m (TV film)

1980 – 60 Minutes – 40.75m

1986 – The Last Precinct, “The Last Precinct” – 39.73m (series premiere)

2010 – Undercover Boss – 38.65m (series premiere)

2006 – Grey’s Anatomy, “It’s the End of the World” – 37.8m

2012 – The Voice – 37.61m (season premiere)

1978 – All in the Family, “Archie and the Super Bowl” – 35.47m

1998 – 3rd Rock from the Sun, “36! 24! 36! Dick!” – 33.66m

2004 – Survivor: All-Stars – 33.54m (season premiere)

1979 – Brothers & Sisters, “Pilot” – 31.72m (series premiere)

1990 – Grand Slam, “Pilot” – 30.77m (series premiere)

1997 – The X-Files, “Leonard Betts” – 29.10m

2008 – House, “Frozen” – 29.05m

1988 – The Wonder Years, “Pilot” – 28.98m (series premiere)

1993 – Homicide: Life on the Street, “Gone for Goode” – 28.12m (series premiere)

1984 – Airwolf, “Shadow of the Hawke” – 27.87m (series premiere)

2011 – Glee, “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” – 26.80m

1991 – Davis Rules, “A Man for All Reasons” – 26.70m (series premiere)

2007 – Criminal Minds, “The Big Game” – 26.31m

2014 – New Girl, “Prince” – 26.3m

2015 – The Blacklist, “Luther Braxton, Part 1” – 25.72m

1992 – 60 Minutes – 24.82m

2000 – The Practice, “New Evidence, Part 1” – 23.85m

2005 – The Simpsons, “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” – 23.07m

1994 – The Good Life, “Pilot” – 23.01m (series premiere)

2009 – The Office, “Stress Relief” – 22.91m

1995 – Extreme, “Pilot” – 22.59m (series premiere)

1976 – Phoenix Open Golf Tournament – 22.36m

1999 – Family Guy, “Death Has a Shadow” – 22.01m (series premiere)

1983 – The A-Team, “Children of Jamestown” – 21.91m (new series)

2002 – Malcolm in the Middle, “Company Picnic” – 21.45m

2013 – Elementary, “The Deductionist” – 20.8m (new series)

2016 – The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – 20.55m (new series)

2003 – Alias, “Phase One” – 17.36m

1975 – NBC Nightly News – 15.92m

1974 – The New Perry Mason, “The Case of the Tortured Titan” – 15.06m (new series)

 

Below is a ranking of lead-out programs based on share (percentage of audience watching TV during the game) since their viewership wasn’t available:

1973 – The Wonderful World of Disney, “The Mystery of Dracula’s Castle” – 44%

1968 – Lassie, “The Foundling” – 41%

1985 – MacGruder and Loud, “Pilot” – 38% (series premiere)

1971 – Bing Crosby’s National Pro-Am Golf Tournament – 36%

1972 – 60 Minutes – 36%

1982 – 60 Minutes – 36%

1989 – The Brotherhood of the Rose, Part 1 – 36% (TV film)

1970 – Lassie, “The Road Back” – 34%

1967 – Lassie, “Lassie’s Litter Bit” – 34%

1987 – Hard Copy, “Pilot” – 33% (series premiere)

1981 – ChiPs, “11-99: Officer Needs Help” – 26% (repeat of previous week’s airing)

1967 – Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, “Willie and the Yank: The Mosby Raiders, Part 2” – 25%

1969 – G.E. College Bowl – 21%

 

Notes and Other Observations:

  • CBS and NBC both aired the first Super Bowl in 1967. Lassie was the lead-out on CBS while Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of the Color was the lead-out on NBC. Lassie on CBS generated a 34 share to Disney’s 25 share on NBC.
  • 13 lead-outs were series premieres —  of these, only 6 made it past their first season.
  • 4 lead-outs were programs in their first season.
  • 29 lead-outs were existing programs.
  • 6 lead-outs were either news (1), sports (3) or Made-for-TV films (2).
  • 15 lead-outs were comedies.
  • 24 lead-outs were dramas.
  • 4 lead-outs were news programs.
  • 3 lead-outs were other sporting events.
  • 2 lead-outs were Made-for-TV films.
  • 4 lead-outs were reality programs.
  • The highest rated series premiere was The Last Precinct in 1986.

 

Where will the 24 reboot rank? Given that FOX’s lead-outs have generated between 20 and 30 million viewers, I predict 25-30 given the promotion. But look for DVR lift to add about 5 million viewers for a 30-35 million total amidst a lot of discussion about the show during that first week. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if live viewership surpassed the 29.1 million for FOX’s current record holder The X-Files.

 

Source: TV by the Numbers
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