The Super Bowl is the king of television in the U.S. Its ratings destroy all other shows, the social media buzz for every aspect of the game dominate, and it is the only sporting event with a serious petition behind it to make the day-after a national holiday. When people do not leave the TV set (or streaming screen) to miss the commercials, you know you’ve hit on something.
However, even the most popular things have their challenges, and on a day the U.S. celebrates maybe the most American sport, there are three trends that undercut this game which, in the short and long-term, could dethrone the Super Bowl as the cultural phenomenon it is. I’d even argue that, absent real thought and reform by the NFL, this change could happen in the next ten years.
Concussion issue – This is the most common strike leveled against the NFL, and with every star or tragic former player death, the strikes against the league grow. If the commissioner’s office isn’t able to come up with a solution, people may begin to turn the TV off rather than watch young men hit themselves into senility.
The “Olympic host city” situation – One of the under-reported aspects of these games is its impact on San Francisco itself. A city budget analyst has decried the loss the city will suffer due to the game protest have sprung up with the city’s handling of its growing homelessness problem. If the NFL insists on making cities pay to host – similar to the IOC forcing financial concessions on their host cities – the allure of these game may wear off.
Counter-programming – While the Super Bowl has something for everyone – commercials for the non-sports fan for example – networks are getting more ambitious in programming against the game itself. Puppy Bowl is becoming its own phenomenon and has spawned Kitten Bowl. Neither will have 100m viewers anytime soon, but networks are beginning to think about experimenting with shows that can appear against the sports behemoth.