The sport, the league and the players on the field at Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks might all hail from the United States, but that doesn’t mean the NFL’s marquee extravaganza lacks a monumental global reach.
Sunday night’s championship game will be broadcast and viewed in 180 countries in 25 languages, including nine languages on site at University of Phoenix Stadium, according to the NFL. As the official videographer and documenter of the league, NFL Films will handle the international feed.
Time zone issues make the Super Bowl problematic for viewers in some countries. The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. EST, which means that the "American football" game will begin at 1:30 a.m. in Johannesburg, South Africa, and 12:30 p.m. in Auckland, New Zealand, on a Monday. Munich viewers will stay up for the Monday morning game, which will be televised on SAT 1 at 12:30 a.m. Since a typical NFL game lasts well over three hours, it could pose sleep issues for workers.
Australia, a nation with a population of more than 23 million, had a television audience of over 200,00 for the 2014 Super Bowl. It's a rather high figure considering the game began at 10:30 a.m. on a Monday in Sydney and Melbourne.
Sky Sports, Canal+, BeIN Sport are just a few of the sports networks providing Super Bowl coverage. OSN Sports will provide coverage in parts of the Middle East and Africa.
While the international figures are difficult to tabulate, the Super Bowl has continually dominated television ratings in the U.S for the last 10 years. Last year’s broadcast set a new high with 111.5 million U.S. viewers tuning in to watch the Seahawks pound the Denver Broncos, 43-8. Reuters reported that an estimated 160 million viewers worldwide watched the Super Bowl, meaning about 38.5 million would have watched the game outside the U.S.
The NFL has a long way to go to catch up to soccer. The 2014 FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina had an estimated audience of 900 million, though the comparison is skewed since the World Cup is every four years and the Super Bowl is an annual event.
According to Statista, the last five Super Bowls have pushed well past the 100-million viewer mark.
NBC will broadcast the game and the network could set a new record with this year’s matchup. The AFC champion Patriots take on defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks with numerous and controversial storylines leading up to the big game.
Dubbed "Deflategate," the Patriots are once again involved in a “cheating” scandal, this time accused of deflating balls below the NFL’s regulated weight to gain an advantage over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game nearly two weeks ago.
New England's head coach, Bill Belichick, and two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady each addressed the media last week and vehemently denied any wrongdoing, while the NFL continues to investigate the matter.
The speculation and mistrust surrounding the Patriots combined with the Seahawks' cast of characters could perhaps offer a bump in the television audience.
Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman has never shied away from controversial subjects, and during Tuesday’s media day he openly questioned NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and whether it represented a conflict of interest in the league’s investigation into Deflategate.
Sherman, who burst onto the national scene for his tirade against the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s NFC title game, also addressed the NFL’s media policy and how they’ve continuously fined Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch for his refusal to speak to the media, while league executives aren’t asked to exercise the same transparency and openness with the media.
Lynch, nicknamed “Beast Mode,” told reporters during media day that he only attended so as to avoid a fine by the league, but may have one levied against him anyway for sporting the hat of a non-NFL affiliated sponsor. With odds at 4/1, Lynch could very well win the Super Bowl MVP trophy, and make for an awkward interview for NBC's broadcast team if he once again refuses to speak.
Pregame coverage of the event begins Sunday at 12 p.m EST.
An IBTimes staff reporter contributed to this report.