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Super Bowl: How the NFL Made It a Phenomenon

AFC Championship
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This Sunday’s game is poised to become the most-watched TV program in U.S. history as the NFL has driven viewership records through improved cooperation with TV networks and marketing to women.

NEW YORK – The NFL has used improved cooperation with and among its TV network partners, marketing to women and patriotic themes to expand its viewership, the LA Times said Friday.

All this has helped the league reach audience records for the regular season and should make this Sunday’s Super Bowl showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers the most-watched Super Bowl and the most-watched TV program in U.S. history, beating last year's game, which drew 106.5 million viewers, the paper said.

The Super Bowl has long be the biggest TV event of the year, but the NFL has worked to strengthen its franchise and boost interest even in regular season games in recent years.

Importantly, TV networks that carry NFL games used to compete against each other, but nowadays tell one bigger story by working together to hype the league via shared highlights and more cross-promotion, according to the Times. And networks credit the NFL for ensuring big games every week in its scheduling. "It has become a science over the past four years; that was not the case in the past," NBC Sports Group chairman Dick Ebersol told the Times.

Many credit the leadership of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Mark Waller, the football league's first chief marketing officer who describes football as "America's last great campfire," with elevating audience interest.

Female viewership for NFL games has increased more than 20 percent compared with five years ago, the Times said, citing ratings data from ESPN, Fox, CBS and NBC.

Like in NBC’s Olympics coverage, this has been achieved by offering more off-the-field storylines about players, coaches and even cities, such as the post-Katrina struggles of New Orleans, which hosted last year's Super Bowl.

Speaking about the Super Bowl’s possible audience record, Daniel Durbin, an associate professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, told the Times: "It has been one of the most profoundly effective media and public relations events that has ever been built in the United States."