Rani Molla is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist using data visualizations to cover corporations and markets. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal.

The titanic Super Bowl advertising franchise now extends well beyond TV. While big auto and beverage companies still dominate ad slots, digital upstarts are grabbing seats at the table

Meanwhile, Super Bowl ads -- seeking to engage viewers with mini-narratives -- have generally become longer…

Long Story Short
Ads that are 60 seconds or longer as a share of all Super Bowl ads
Source: Kantar Media

…and more expensive to air...

Bowled Over
Average cost for a 30-second Super Bowl spot
Sources: Kantar Media; news reports (2016)

...due to the Super Bowl's huge and growing live audience. A record 114 million people -- or about half of U.S. households -- watched the Super Bowl on TV last year, according to Nielsen data. For comparison's sake, "Sunday Night Football" averaged 22.5 million viewers while the "Game of Thrones" season finale had 8 million

Tuned In
Avergage number of people who watched the Super Bowl on TV each year
Source: Nielsen

That growth has occurred even as overall TV viewership has declined and as TV advertising is quickly ceding ground to digital


The Super Bowl's advantage is that it's an event that still captures the attention of a massive, deeply attentive audience. Super Bowl ads and their accompanying publicity cause web traffic to advertisers' sites to spike after the game.

Super Bump
Aggregate unique visitors to Super Bowl advertisers’ sites peaked in 2015, in the days following the game.
Source: Millward Brown Digital

Network TV can still charge more per ad than digital platforms. In 2015, the average cost per 1,000 ad impressions on network TV was about $48, versus an average cost of $24 for in-stream video ads online, according to Magna Global. 

Pay Per Eyeball
Cost per thousand impressions
Source: Magna Global

YouTube, a big competitor to TV for ad dollars, is fertile ground for Super Bowl ads. YouTube's audience engages repeatedly with those ads, so the ads tend to have a longer shelf life on YouTube than anywhere else. And that YouTube audience has grown sharply recently:

It's Growing
Time spent watching Super Bowl ads on YouTube, in millions of minutes
Source: YouTube

2016 will be an even bigger year for Super Bowl ad spending, with advertisers forking over $5 million for each 30-second ad, up from $4.4 million in 2015. Advertisers spent a total of $345 million on Super Bowl ads last year and are expected to spend even more this year.

Big Bowl
Total Super Bowl ad spend
Source: Kantar Media

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Rani Molla in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at