After watching all the buttdowns, awkward graphics, and ads we'd already seen on YouTube, regular Super Bowl viewers may have noticed something strange about yesterday evening's postgame coverage: It was much shorter than normal. According to Sports Media Watch, there was only 15 minutes of postgame in the half-hour time slot set aside between 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. to debrief fans on the game. This was enough time to interview the victor team's head coach and quarterback, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning -- but not much else before before NBC's singing competition reality show, The Voice, began.
Though today you can read many loud complaints about the short postgame and NBC's failure to capitalize on the Boston and New York media markets tuning in, there's pretty solid logic behind NBC's decision. First, the fragmentation of media means football fans can get their postgame fix on ESPN or the NFL Network (if you get it), while NBC caters to a broader audience with The Voice. But second and even more important: The network -- famously in fourth place behind CBS, ABC, and Fox -- very much needs a new hit and wants The Voice to be it. As Reuters reports, "The success or failure of 'The Voice' and the new 'Smash' will likely decide whether Bob Greenblatt's first full season as NBC's entertainment chairman is eventually deemed a success or failure."
And you could feel that desperation during the Super Bowl broadcast, as NBC kept its postgame short in order to hook unsuspecting viewers to The Voice (while simultaneously very heavily advertising the show). And it seems to have worked. Yesterday's Super Bowl was the most watched TV program ever, and The Voice, despite our own lukewarm review, had an incredible night. Via TV By The Numbers:
The season two premiere of “The Voice” that followed the Super Bowl averaged a 16.3 rating in adults 18-49 and 37.6 million viewers overall, making it the highest-rated entertainment program in 18-49 in six years, since ABC's “Grey's Anatomy” post-Super Bowl telecast on February 5, 2006 (16.5). "The Voice" is up versus last year's post-Super Bowl telecast of "Glee" by 47 percent in 18-49 (16.3 vs. 11.1) and up one percent versus the 2010 post-Super Bowl telecast of "Undercover Boss" (16.3 vs. 16.2).
Hooray for NBC! That isn't to say NBC didn't mess up this year's Super Bowl in another way. Remember that media fragmentation we mentioned? Besides pinning its flagship station's hopes on The Voice, the channel is also trying to get NBC Sports, a rebranded addition of Versus, off of the ground. But instead of airing Super Bowl postgame coverage there, easily directing NBC viewers to the sister station once the network chose to switch to The Voice, NBC Sport showed...a game of rugby. Leaving ESPN, the very network NBC Sports plans to compete with head-to-head, with most of those residual football fans still looking to learn more about the last game of the NFL season.