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NBC Courts Women In Hopes Of Record Super Bowl Broadcast


This Sunday's Super Bowl could well become the most-watched broadcast in the history of television. And to try to make that happen, NBC has scheduled a day filled with elements that it hopes appeals to viewers who are not die-hard sports fans. There's a special focus on women. NPR TV critic, Eric Deggans, joins us now to talk about that. Hey, Eric.


BLOCK: And currently, the most watched TV broadcast ever is last year's Super Bowl - according to Nielsen, more than 112 million people tuned in last year. So targeting women is among the things that NBC is trying to do to beat that record?

DEGGANS: Well, you look at the numbers and you see last year, that 46 percent of the Super Bowl audience was female. And keep in mind, Melissa, that for the regular-season that number was just 35 percent. So that suggests that the Super Bowl draws a good number of female viewers who don't watch regular-season football. Now, there's a poll out from the National Retail Federation that predicts 181 million Americans will watch Sunday's game and...

BLOCK: What?

DEGGANS: ...That's - yeah, that sounds too high.

BLOCK: OK wait, that would be like a 60 percent increase over last year - that's crazy, right?

DEGGANS: Exactly. I mean, viewership hasn't jumped by that much in the last five Super Bowls. But their poll also said that less than half of their respondents thought the game was the most important part of the broadcast day. So that tells you that there are a lot of people coming to watch the Super Bowl who don't necessarily care that much about sports. And the only way NBC can beat the numbers that FOX saw last year when they broadcast the Super Bowl is to appeal to an even bigger slice of that casual sports-viewing audience.

BLOCK: OK, so that brings us to the non-sports entertainment part of the Super Bowl - we know of course the halftime show this year - it's Katy Perry who's going to be performing at halftime. Apparently, reportedly with a special guest Missy Elliott. The national anthem will be sung by Idina Menzel - otherwise known as Adele Dazeem of "Frozen" fame. What other plans does NBC have to reach beyond the typical die-hard sports fan?

DEGGANS: I think she's known as that only by John Travolta.


DEGGANS: The biggest sign we've seen is who they've picked to host a pregame tailgate party - figure skaters Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. Now, they first popped as a quirky pair of analysts in NBC's Winter Olympics coverage from Sochi last year. NBC's press release say they'll interview celebrities and quote, "Provide their own Super Bowl observations." So it's kind of hard to imagine what they'll add to the game coverage, but they provided pretty amusing fashion commentary for the Oscars and they're likely popular with folks who might not be die-hard sports fans. NBC also has country music star, Carrie Underwood, singing the opening theme, re-doing a version of the "Sunday Night Football" theme for the Super Bowl. And former ESPN anchor, Josh Elliott, will interview Katy Perry, highlighting how prominently women are featured in the show this year.

BLOCK: And Eric, that's an interesting point because the NFL of course has gotten so much criticism this season for how it handled domestic violence cases with its players and there've been a lot of concerns that all these scandals will alienate female viewers - female fans.

DEGGANS: Well, the ratings I've seen from Nielsen show that that hasn't really happened yet. The number of female viewers for the 2014 season is only down about 20,000 viewers from the year before. The NFL has been courting female fans for a while, and we've seen indications that advertisers for instance are getting pressured to abandon this frat boy style of ads that we've seen in years past and offer more sophisticated stuff.

BLOCK: You think so? Well, I'll believe that when I see it, Eric. I don't know, but we'll be watching.

DEGGANS: Yeah, certainly we'll see.

BLOCK: OK, Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic. Thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.