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What is the Ratings Outlook for the 49ers-Chiefs Super Bowl and Lead-Out Program ‘The Masked Singer’ on Fox?

Several media professionals opine on the potential viewership of Super Bowl Sunday

The Fox network is the broadcast home of this year’s Super Bowl. The 54th edition of The Big Game features the San Francisco 49ers versus the Kansas City Chiefs and will take place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla. on Sunday, Feb. 2.

The 49ers and the Chiefs exhibited comparable statistics in the 2019 regular season. The 49ers scored the most points for an NFC team (479); the Chiefs had the second-most for an AFC team (451). Both squads’ defenses led their respective conferences in allowing the least amount of opponents’ rushing yards. The Chiefs ranked second in the NFL in passing yards per game (304); the Niners topped the NFL in rushing yards per game (235:5).

Since the turn of the century, the Super Bowl has practically been uncharted territory for both franchises. The 49ers experienced unbridled success from 1981 thru 1994 by winning five Super Bowls. But within the past 25 seasons, there have been many lean years, except for a brief return to prominence in 2012-13 when they were champions of the NFC but lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

As for the Chiefs, while they’ve made the playoffs in each and every season since Andy Reid became their head coach in 2013, they had always fallen short of winning the AFC. That is, until this year, earning their first Super Bowl berth in 50 years. The last time the Chiefs had appeared in the Super Bowl — the 1969-70 season (winning Super Bowl IV), the team was a member of the American Football League (AFL). Both the AFL and NFL would then merge into one league by the start of the 1970 regular season.

Will there be more fan interest with relative newbies to the NFL’s big dance? While the 49ers boast a potent roster that includes past Super Bowl champion players Richard Sherman (formerly of the Seattle Seahawks) and Jimmy Garoppolo (former backup quarterback to Tom Brady on the New England Patriots), the Super Bowl’s biggest marquee name is rising superstar quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes. In his first full year in 2018, Mahomes was the NFL MVP and led the Chiefs to their first AFC Championship Game appearance in 25 years, having passed for 50 touchdowns (only the third quarterback in NFL history to do so, joining Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) and for 5,097 yards (only quarterback to accomplish this single-season feat in college and the pros).

In this age of increasingly fragmented audiences due to streaming options, not even the Super Bowl was immune as witnessed last year when its household viewership dipped below 100 million for the first time since 2009. But perhaps there were other major factors in play then. For one, the usual presence of the New England Patriots, an organization not highly beloved by the nation’s fans at-large. Reaching nine Super Bowls (winning six of them) within a 17-year span may have contributed to a sense of fatigue. Another possible detriment was the absence of the 2018-19 New Orleans Saints. A controversial non-call for pass interference in last year’s NFC title game ultimately led the Los Angeles Rams to advance to the Super Bowl instead of the Saints. A mere 26.1 overnight rating was registered for the Patriots-Rams contest in the New Orleans market — less than half of how much Eagles-Patriots rated there from the year prior; also, the lowest ranked metered market for that game, and the lowest-ever Super Bowl rating in New Orleans. In addition, the Patriots’ victory by the lowly score of 13-3 was not a thrill for the masses; neither was its halftime entertainment (or lack thereof) of Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi.

Both conference championship games on Jan. 19 dropped by double-digit percentages from their 2019 deliveries. Key factors possibly attributable to that decline were the presence of the Tennessee Titans (the third least-watched team of the regular season, according to average number of viewers per game) in the AFC Championship and the Packers-49ers NFC Championship having quickly turned into a lopsided affair in favor of the 49ers.

I believe there will be increased interest in Super Bowl LIV because of the teams involved as well as the one team (New England) that most fans are relieved not to see. The prospect of 49ers-Chiefs seems like a breath of fresh air. The lower-than-usual conference title game ratings will bear no effect on this game. And compared to the past two years with Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5, there’s much more anticipation for this year’s halftime show with a nod to the Latin music scene in Miami featuring music superstars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. I’m predicting 101 million viewers (not counting streaming or out-of-home audiences).

The third season premiere of Fox’s biggest hit series of 2019, the kitschy celebrity singing competition “The Masked Singer” gets the plum post-Super Bowl slot this time around. Being that it’s already an established success helps. Although no program after the Super Bowl since 2012 has drawn more than 27 million viewers, even the short-lived “America’s Got Talent”-wannabe “The World’s Best” drew 22.2 million viewers last year for CBS. 24 million seems likely for “The Masked Singer”.

I inquired with professionals in the media industry to provide their ratings prognostications for the upcoming Super Bowl and its lead-out program “The Masked Singer”. To compare or contrast with my predictions, here are their takes:

Jon Lewis, Sports Media Watch

Game prediction: 97.65M viewers. I think Super Bowl viewership is as much affected by the overall state of TV as by the popularity of the teams/NFL. So even if it’s a good game, I imagine that the TV-only audience will decline from last year.

Masked Singer prediction: 23.1M viewers. Conversely, I think that the lead-out viewership really is dependent on the popularity of the show. We all know what happened with “The World’s Best.” Masked Singer, already an established draw, should retain more of the game audience.

Michael McCarthy, Senior Writer at Front Office Sports

Ignore the drop in AFC/NFC Championship viewership numbers. Young guns Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers will deliver the eyeballs the tune of 109.3 million average viewers. The Masked Singer, on the other hand, doesn’t have the juice of shows like “This Is Us.” Masked Singer only draws 18.5 million on Fox.

Tony Maglio, TV editor at The Wrap

Super Bowl LIV: 110.7 million
I’m going high because we have a few fresh (enough, in the 9ers case) teams, one of which (the Chiefs) is arguably the most exciting team in the league, led by (arguably) its most exciting player, Patrick Mahomes. The over/under expects a high-scoring affair and the fine line (1.5 points in Kansas City’s favor as I write this) is set for a tight one. I’m not betting against a big game out of the Big Game.

“The Masked Singer” Season 3 premiere: 30.4 million
If I go high for the lead-in, I’ve got to go really high for “Masked Singer.” It’s a simple argument. First: “The Masked Singer” gets bigtime numbers without such a humongous springboard setting it up. Second: “Masked Singer” is a family friendly show, so there’s no need for anyone flip it off right away. Third: It’s a season premiere with all new singers and costumes — smart. And finally, fourth: It’s a weird show, and this might be the best time for someone who has heard of it but not watched to sample.

As is always the case, what we can call the Super Bowl’s “lead out” is completely dependent on the Super Bowl being a tight game until the end. Good luck to Fox this weekend, the host network probably won’t need it.

Austin Karp, Sports Business Journal Managing Editor/Digital

Super Bowl LIV: 100.1 million viewers. I expect a bigger overall number this year. Kansas City market should draw a huge local number after a 50-year drought, and I think we’ll see the return of a large part of the New Orleans market after the drop-off last season. Combined with the overall positive NFL numbers this season, I think the game returns to that 100 million+ figure.
For Masked Singer, I’m not so bullish. Predicting 22.0 million viewers.

Lou D’Ermilio, LOUD Communications, former Senior Vice President of Fox Sports media relations

FOX certainly lucked out by getting the 49ers and Chiefs to square off in the Super Bowl, plus an interesting halftime show featuring J-Lo and Shakira. Given the 5% regular-season audience bump, plus the match-up and halftime, the game will perform about 8% better than last year, or 106.4 million p2+.
In 2017, FOX’s post SB show delivered an audience (17.6 million) that was about 84% lower than the game (111.3 million), so if we apply the same logic this year to a projected audience of 106.4 million, then The Masked Singer will come in at about 14.8 million p2+.

Neil Best, Newsday sports columnist

Super Bowl LIV: 97.6 million viewers. I am not sure what these numbers even mean anymore given the increasingly complicated and creative ways of measuring TV viewership, but by the traditional metrics, I assume the numbers will continue to sink slowly in the West until we are in total darkness.
The Masked Singer: 19.5 million viewers. I am not certain, but the premise of your inquiry seems to suggest that there still are people who watch network television programs on or close to their original showing. So I suppose it is possible nearly 20 million will check out this show, which I assume is about singing bank robbers.

Andrew Marchand, New York Post sports media columnist

97.4 million [for the Super Bowl]. I see it a little down from last year, but still a nice number. The Masked Singer is popular but I’m not sure it crosses over with everyone: 21.3 million.

Robert Seidman,

Super Bowl: 98.5 million, same as last year. I guess a 5% rebound from last year but that’s canceled out by a 5% reduction in station coverage for the broadcast networks vs. last year. But next year when out of home viewing should be included the number will be way up!

Masked Singer: 17.5 million. Think a lot of people will save this for another night via DVR.

Dan Serafin, News 12 The Bronx/Brooklyn sports anchor

I think this will look more like 2016, 2017 then it will look like last year’s Super Bowl… points will be scored… last year’s 1st half had all the makings of a snoozefest… I’m thinking we’ll be in the 110 million neighborhood.

Post-Super Bowl, I like that it’s Masked Singer, but I also think it’s a super-rough spot… if the game is good, I want post-game interviews, pressers, locker-room…. if the game stinks, I want to go to sleep. I don’t think Masked Singer is going to change that.

David Barron, Houston Chronicle sports media columnist

97.2 million for the game, 19 million for Masked Singer. Pure guesses, but Middle America vs. Left Coast could be a ratings issue for the Right Coast.

Maury Brown, Forbes

105.7 million for SB… 18.5 million Masked Singer… I’d expect ratings to bounce back from the last Super Bowl. But given that geographically KC and San Francisco exclude the East Coast, it may not be as high as it could be. Patrick Mahomes lends some star power, but after that Jimmy Garoppolo is still fairly new for average fans. If the game is close, the numbers could edge upward.

Patrick Crakes, Crakes Media Consulting, former Senior Vice President of Fox Sports Senior Vice President Programming in Research & Content Strategy

Super Bowl LIIII = 102.5M viewers on FOX (+4%); Streaming = 2.8M (+12%); Out of Home = 12.1M (+1%); Spanish Language on FOX Deportes = 500K (+6%). Total Super Bowl across all platforms (Linear, Streaming, OOH & Spanish) = 117.7.0M (+4%) “The Masked Singer” = 21.5M viewers on CBS (-3% vs. “World’s Best”). NOTE: All Comps are vs. last year.
Super Bowl LIIII should bounce back from the decline trend of the past several years driven by two teams with national fan bases and the sport’s biggest young star Patrick Mahomes. The game narrative will help as well as both teams had strong regular and post seasons and have shown resilience and the ability to bounce back from mistakes – which should drive tune-in while keeping viewers around if one team jumps out to reasonable lead. The Masked Singer will be down a little vs. last year’s Super Bowl lead-out but will still give FOX a positive story by attracting 20M+ viewers. Streaming continues to grow but remains a small part of audience delivery (3%) vs. established platforms. Out-of-Home viewing will again contribute 12M+ incremental viewers cementing its strategic value as total delivery continues to grow in importance for the biggest events.

Evan Boyd, Stats by STATS researcher

For the Super Bowl, it will be back up at 110 million. We all knew that last year’s SB was a quiet one. This one that features Patrick Mahomes will not.
As for post-Super Bowl, I will say 20 million. I think a lot more people will be watching on a stream instead of live TV, thus more people will turn it off once the game ends. Although I have heard good things about the Masked Singer.

Jimmy Traina, writer at Sports Illustrated and host of SI Media Podcast

Super Bowl rating prediction: 97.5 million
Ratings were strong all season long until the AFC and NFC title games, so it’s hard to predict where one game will go. Thanks to continuing cord cutting and more people streaming than ever, plus the absence of Tom Brady, who brought in many fringe fans, I expect a slight dip in the rating for Super Bowl LIV.

Masked Singer: 18.2 million Network TV is trending down. I can’t see this show reversing that.

Rich Greenfield, Media and Technology Analyst at LightShed Partners

Superbowl ratings down 5% [to 93.6 million] — just due to the continued decline in linear TV viewership.

Post Super Bowl I think could be up 15% [to 25.6 million] due to the fact that it’s a known show that has done well vs. last year trying to launch an unknown.

Steve Kaplowitz, afternoon sports talk radio host at 600 ESPN El Paso (Texas)

My ratings prediction is 111.6 million. I think the fact that New England is not back combined with San Francisco’s popularity and Mahomes’ offense will bring ratings back to the 2015-17 level. As for Post-Super Bowl, I’ll guess 20.6 million for the Masked Singer season debut. I took it’s December ratings and tripled it since it would be after the game. Thanks again, Steve

Mark Cuban, “Shark Tank” entrepreneur/Dallas Mavericks owner

98.2 million

Discussion previewing Super Bowl Sunday 2020 on Fox with Super Bowl LIV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers and its post show, the third season premiere of “The Masked Singer”.

Scott Nolte, KUYY deejay/sports announcer

Super Bowl – 108.6 million   We have teams in the Super Bowl this year that have not made it in a long time and both teams have a great fan base.

Masked Singer – 23.6 million     It’s already a popular show and with the Super Bowl lead in, it will only help the ratings.

Jason Jacobs, KUOO deejay/sports announcer

I predict 100 million viewers for the game on the nose. I think this year’s game has more interest than last year. People are excited about these young quarterbacks and having Kansas City in a Super Bowl. I also think we’ll have a better game than last year’s snooze fest.”

Gonna say 20.3 million for The Masked Singer. The Masked Singer is certainly a better draw than The World’s Best was, but I think ongoing TV patterns point to lower ratings again. It won’t be the lowest TV show to ever air there though and I predict it will easily outdo 24 from a few years ago.

Terence Henderson, T Dog Media

I expect viewership to be down a bit as it lacks the star power of Tom Brady and the Patriots, so my prediction is 97.2 million for Super Bowl LIV and 18.8 million for the Masked Singer.