The next day, the numbers were in. And... the Super Bowl set another all-time viewing record.
So what happened here? Do the ratings tank a lot less in a blowout than we think? Or was this just such an overwhelmingly strong matchup that the record was set even in the face of a major second half tank-job? Let's investigate the half-hour breakdowns, comparing them with the previous three games (all very competitive to the end).
But how much does this mean in terms of the full game average? The 2014 Super Bowl started on the 2012 pace and end up averaging a 39.3, down by 3% vs. 2012's 40.5. So the classic game and the blowout game with identical initial interest finished... just three percent apart (or 1.2 points). Just 7% of the 18-49 eyeballs bailed from 8:30 to 9:30.
Certainly, this is not how advertisers would prefer it, and the effect can be more like double digits for a two-minute warning ad like "Puppy Love." But it's far from the catastrophe that social media likes to make it out to be. On the whole, it probably still did better than a bad matchup/good game would have.
The blowout probably has a bigger impact in the record books trivia, where 3% can feel like a huge deal. For a matchup heavily favored to break viewership records as this one was, that may not be the difference between record/no-record. But it could be the difference between ekeing out a record and shattering one. The 112.19 million viewers beat 2012's 111.35m record by 840,000 viewers; but tack on that extra three percent with a classic game and you're looking at 115-116 mill, over four million above the previous high!