NBC granted rival ESPN a surprising gift Sunday night, signing off from the Super Bowl fifteen minutes ahead of schedule and leaving its newly rebranded cable outlet with rugby.
Sunday’s Super Bowl postgame show, which ran for just fifteen minutes (10-10:15 PM ET), earned a 35.3 overnight rating on NBC — up 17% from last year’s postgame on FOX (30.3). The postgame show finished fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled, presumably to have less of a buffer between the highly rated game itself and the postgame reality show The Voice.
Signing off early was the right strategic move for NBC. A shorter postgame means less time for viewers to tune out, which is good for both the postgame itself (as evidenced by the 17% increase) and for the lead-out program.
Having said that, the network blew a golden opportunity by not having postgame coverage continue on the newly rebranded NBC Sports Network (previously Versus). Instead of postgame coverage, viewers who switched from NBC to NBC Sports Network late Sunday night saw rugby.
ESPN benefited from NBC’s decision-making. The network’s NFL Primetime telecast earned a 1.9 overnight, up 36% from last year (1.4), and SportsCenter drew a 1.5, up 15%. Of note, both NFL Primetime and SportsCenter began fifteen minutes earlier than last year.
(Information from NBC Sports Group press release, ESPN)