Potential for success: Super Bowl lead-out programs score big audiences

The NBC show This Is Us premiered a highly anticipated episode after Super Bowl LII. Almost 27 million people viewed the episode live.

Carol Etzel

The NBC show “This Is Us” premiered a highly anticipated episode after Super Bowl LII. Almost 27 million people viewed the episode live.

Following the most watched football game of the year is a time slot devoted to a chosen television show. Starting in 1967 with the program Lassie, the after-Super-Bowl TV show program became a long-running tradition. There is a strategy behind the choice, and not every chosen show has been a success.

Often this time slot is used by the channel hosting the Super Bowl to promote one of their more popular shows. Coming in with 52.9 million viewers in 1996, Friends holds the record for most watched lead-out program. Although not nearly as successful as the showing of Friends, other notable examples of this choice are The X Files (1997), Family Guy (1999), and Survivor- The Australian Outback (2001). During these years and countless other examples, the network chose to bring more publicity to one of their already popular shows.

One of the most infamous lead-out programs is an episode of 60 Minutes featuring an interview with Bill and Hillary Clinton addressing the Gennifer Flowers affair in 1992. Although it did not land on the top of the viewer list, the episode was featured on every news channel the following morning and became a very well-known moment in TV history.

Similarly, many networks choose talk shows like The Late Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, or 60 Minutes. These episodes do not attract nearly as many viewers as other TV shows, but still prove to be a popular choice over the years.

Promoting a brand new show in the after-Super-Bowl spot is a risk some networks have been willing to take. In 2010, CBS debuted their new show Undercover Boss after Super Bowl XLIV. With 38.7 million viewers, it proved to be a huge success making it the third biggest audience for an after Super Bowl show.

However, when ABC promoted an episode of their show Alias which was struggling to get past its first season, their results were not so positive. Alias had 17.4 million viewers that night, making it one of the smallest audiences for a lead-out program in years.

Following this year’s Super Bowl was a special episode of the NBC show, This Is Us. Halfway through their second season, the show has proved to be a massive hit. With superb storylines and characters written with such great writing that is normally only seen on the movie screens or on acclaimed Netflix hits, the lead-out program was destined to be a success.

This episode was promoted by NBC as much, if not more, then the actual Super Bowl itself. The episode lived up to its expectations, coming in with just under 27 million live viewers. The episode broke viewer’s hearts, answered their biggest questions, included a few appropriate light-hearted moments, and presented more questions that left everyone who watched dying to find out more.

This is a big opportunity for the hosting network. It involves taking risks, good promotion for their episode, and good writing. If done correctly, the success could bring more publicity and viewers for months to come.