The average length of Super Bowl broadcasts has been 3 hours, 35 minutes over the past two decades, according to Nielsen Holdings NV. That’s about a half-hour longer than the National Football League’s broadcasters allot for games during the regular season.
The championship, which has evolved into the most-watched television event in the U.S., draws advertisers and viewers not normally associated with football, helped in part by a celebrity halftime show and original advertisements that draw their own media attention.
Madonna will perform during halftime of the Feb. 5 game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in an intermission extended to 30 minutes from the regular-season norm of 12, and a record television audience might tune in for at least part of the game. More than 111 million people watched the Green Bay Packers’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, the biggest audience in U.S. television history.
Bill Belichick, who has coached the Patriots to three Super Bowl wins and a 2008 championship loss to the Giants, said yesterday that he simulated the lengthened halftime during practice to help his players get used to the change in routine.
“It gets into a whole restarting mentality,” Belichick said at a news conference. “It’s not like taking a break and coming out in the second half. It’s like starting the game all over again. It’s like playing a game, stopping, and then playing a second game, a double-header in baseball, if you will.”
With the contest set to begin at 6:29 p.m. local time, at least it won’t imitate the later start times of Major League Baseball’s World Series and other major sporting events, according to Brad Adgate, head of research at New York-based Horizon Media Inc.
“The NFL is very prudent to have this game start at 6:30 so that it can keep the younger viewers watching the game and engaged in the NFL,” Adgate said in a telephone interview. “The other major sports don’t do that.”
The Giants upset the Patriots 17-14 four years ago, ending New England’s bid for a perfect season. That game broadcast lasted 3:41, while the longest since 1992 was the 4:06 meeting between the Patriots and the Carolina Panthers in 2004, according to Nielsen.
NFL games average about 70 commercials both during the regular season and in the Super Bowl. The average 30-second ad for the title game sold for $3.5 million, according to Chris McCloskey, a spokesman for Comcast Corp.’s NBC, which will telecast the game.
The one game-lengthening feature that the Super Bowl has never had is overtime. The teams would go beyond the 60 minutes of regulation play if the score is tied.
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