By Rob Salkowitz
Originally published in Forbes
Women have been increasing as a percentage of the NFL fan base for years. In 2017, the NFL estimated roughly 45% of football fans were female. Last night, ratings were down about 3% overall from Super Bowl 51 in 2017 and the lowest in eight years, but women constituted about 49% of the 108 million-plus people who watched the game. Without increasing interest from women, NFL ratings would be sliding more steeply than they already are.
So, we know women are tuning in. But new data collected by the metrics platform TVision Insights shows that every aspect of the broadcast is holding women’s attention much better than that of men. TVision, which uses propriety sensors to provide second-by-second analysis of who is watching TV, who’s in the room, who’s paying attention and who is reacting with delight, has produced some eye-opening numbers indicating a widening gender gap around NFL viewership.
The TVision platform uses data from a demographically diverse, representative panel of viewers around the country who opt in to their measurement system. Their metrics use 100 as a baseline for attention, with numbers above 100 being better than average and those below 100 being worse.
The company found that men scored 88.4 on the attention scale for Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, compared to 109.1 for women, a difference of 23%. Women were also 26.1% more focused on the ads, 110 to 87.2 for men.
So sure, women watched the entertainment and the commercials, but what about the game itself – the gritty gridiron action that’s obsessed generations of manly fans? Once the ball was snapped, women were over 27% more likely than men to be paying attention.
Let’s get back to that point about the commercials since that’s where the money changes hands. A pointed piece by AdAge columnist Jeanine Poggi called “Super Bowl So Male” detailed the vast disparity in gender representation in Super Bowl ads on both sides of the camera. Poggi noted how male celebrities ranging from Danny De Vito to Chris Pratt to Matt Damon dominated the game’s most buzzed-about commercial spots, and how some brands shied away from explicitly inclusive messages (although many did not). She also raised an important point about the relatively small number of female creatives or production executives involved in the development of Super Bowl ads, on the assumption that most of the ads were being aimed at male viewers.
It turns out that the data no longer supports that assumption. Women are watching the game. Women are watching the ads. And women are making buying decisions for the household.
Here are the spots from last night that landed best and commanded the most attention by gender, according to TVision.
Most Attention - Men