“What to air after the Big Game?” That is the millions-of-viewers question that faces one broadcast TV network each year, when its turn rolls around to host the Super Bowl.
For Super Bowl LVI, airing Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022 and pitting the Los Angeles Rams against the Cincinnati Bengals, NBC quietly announced in mid-November that some of its ongoing Beijing Winter Olympics coverage would lay claim to the cushiest real estate in the business, leading out of a championship game that should draw nearly 100 million viewers.
Fun fact: NBC going with Winter Olympics coverage (specifically, the awarding of gold medals in ice dance figure skating and monobob) marks the first time since 1976 — when CBS aired the Phoenix Open golf tournament after Super Bowl X — that more sports followed the Big Game.
Traditionally, a Super Bowl broadcaster uses that plum spot to debut a new series or showcase an existing one. Yet while following the Super Bowl invariably brings a supersized audience, it is not always a bellwether of future success. In the gallery below, TVLine has singled out five shows that unarguably Fumbled the opportunity… 10 that in one way (ratings) or another (quality) scored a metaphorical Touchdown… and one that, though highly regarded, merely put up a Field Goal.
But first, some more Fun Facts!
🏈 Over the past decade, the program following the Super Bowl has averaged 22.3 million total viewers (in Live+Same Day tallies).
🏈 Over the past 25 years, a drama series has been chosen to lead out of the Super Bowl 10 times (most recently in 2021, when CBS premiered The Equalizer). Comedies have filled the slot eight times, reality-TV has gotten the nod six times, and a late-night talk show claimed the coveted spot once.
🏈 The last comedy to air after the Super Bowl was Fox’s pairing of New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which in 2014 respectively drew 26.3 million and 15.1 million viewers. (Fun fact within a fact: Fox’s Family Guy debuted after the Super Bowl in 1999, and now is in Season 20.)
🏈 Of the last 25 series to follow the Super Bowl, only two wound up not getting renewed that year: CBS’ The World’s Best and Fox’s 24: Legacy reboot.
🏈 Heading into Super Bowl LVI, NBC’s track record over the past 20 years is super-solid. This Is Us‘ CrockPot-damning detailing of Jack’s death in 2018 was the eighth-most watched drama episode to ever air after the Big Game; The Blacklist (2015) is still “in the black” seven years later; The Voice (2012) is still singing; and The Office‘s two-parter from 2009 is well remembered for its cold open involving Dwight’s fake fire drill. (Sorry, Stanley.)
🏈 Over the past 25 years, a series premiere has been chosen to lead out of the Super Bowl just six times (most recently with CBS’ The Equalizer in 2021) — while in the 28 years before Friends followed the Big Game, a pilot episode got picked 12 times.
🏈 Though that 1996 episode of Friends lays claim to the largest audience on record for a Super Bowl lead-out, CBS’ All in the Family (in 1978) and 60 Minutes (1980) delivered sliiiightly larger shares (47 and 50 percent) of their available audiences.
🏈 ABC’s Alias (in 2003) and CBS’ Elementary (in 2013) were saddled with some of the latest start times (after 11 pm ET) on record for a Super Bowl aftershow. Conversely, the record-setting Friends episode enjoyed one of the earliest kickoffs, airing just a few minutes after 10 o’clock.