For nearly as long as there's been a Super Bowl, TV networks have used the time slot immediately following the broadcast to bring the big game’s audience to high-profile programming. Sometimes, the network shows the premiere of a debuting series; other times, it’s a particularly major episode of an existing series.
This year, with FOX showing the game, it gave the post-Super Bowl spot to the premiere of 24: Legacy, the new spinoff series of its long-running hit 24. The new show retains the visual style and format of the original series with an all-new cast that doesn’t include longtime hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), while coming from a pair of longtime 24 producers. Now, the ratings are in for the first episode.
The premiere episode of 24: Legacy attracted 17.6 million viewers and 6.1 rating, according to EW. While those are pretty strong numbers by normal television standards, they actually represent the lowest ratings for a post-Super Bowl broadcast in 14 years. That was the series premiere of Alias in 2003; the last three post-Super Bowl broadcasts — the Prince-starring New Girl episode on FOX in 2014, The Blacklist episode on NBC in 2015 and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS in 2016 — all broke 20 million viewers.
The broadcast of 24: Legacy started unusually late as the game, in which the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons, was the first Super Bowl in the game’s 51-year history to go into overtime. The game ended after 10 p.m. on the East Coast, and after various postgame ceremonies, the 24 broadcast began at around 11. According to FOX, it was the third-latest start for a post-Super Bowl broadcast in history.
The late start may not be the sole reason for the lower ratings. After all, the game had an outstanding and surprising finish, which likely kept more eyeballs on the Super Bowl who might have tuned out an hour or two earlier had the contest remained a blowout. There’s also the notion that the show earned lukewarm reviews, and much like the time a Matt Damon-less Bourne movie was attempted -- also with “Legacy” in the title — perhaps there isn’t much audience interest in a 24 without Jack Bauer.
The ratings story will likely become clearer before long, especially with the second episode airing Monday night. Although, it's worth remembering that when the original 24 debuted in 2001, it took some time to gain momentum. So don't count out new 24 quite yet. After all, things didn’t look so great out of the gate for the New England Patriots Sunday night, either.
24: Legacy will continue to air on Monday nights on FOX.