5 Facts About Energy During the Big Game

On Super Bowl Sunday, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will face off in the largest television event of the year. Most people will cook some food, meet up with friends and gather around a TV to watch the game. Ever wonder what that many people doing the same thing at the same time does to the electric grid?

MISO is like the air traffic controllers of the electric grid – constantly moving electricity from power plants to the people and businesses that need it. MISO ensures the reliable operation of the electric grid for 42 million people living across 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

Most of the time energy usage follows consistent patterns. However, with 114.4 million viewers, the Super Bowl drastically changes energy patters. This requires grid operators to pay closer attention to the game and the grid. With so many people doing the same thing, really interesting patterns are amplified, especially when the game takes breaks.

Demand on the grid spikes when people use more energy. So if 114.4 million people are watching the game, commercial breaks can cause an increase in demand as people get up to use the restroom or grab something from the kitchen.  With a spike in load meaning that people are doing other things, we took a look back at the past few Super Bowls to see what we’ve learned.

1. Super Bowl 2015 Viewers were Glued to their Seats

The close game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks kept viewers’ attention. Load was fairly steady throughout the game. Fans stuck around until the final moments of the game, when the Seahawks threw a game ending interception, vaulting the Patriots to a 4 point victory. After that, electricity demand surged 850 MW in 15 minutes.

Compare that to the 2014 Super Bowl, where the Seahawks lead the entire game. When the game finally ended with Denver losing 43-8, the surge in demand at the end of the game was much smaller, indicating people may have stopped watching.  Load data seems to show that a captivating moment happened around 9:30 pm Eastern, when Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went down and was carted off the field. Demand around that time steeply decreased, which could mean viewers were watching and interested in Sherman’s prognosis.

2. Activate the Back Up Just in Case

Ensuring reliability on the grid is a careful balance of constantly matching the demand for electricity with the right amount of power. If demand for power jumps quickly, MISO needs to have additional power to call on.  Super Bowl Sunday is a perfect example of needing more supply to meet those bursts in power throughout the day.

Leading into the game, MISO’s grid operators typically ask utilities across our region to fire up more power plants so that capacity is online in case we need it. Think about it like keeping your kicker warmed up during the game.  We’re not sure when we might need to call on that extra power, but we want them ready to go when it’s time.

3. Katy Perry’s Halftime Show was a hit

In 2015, Katy Perry performed the most watched halftime show of all time. According to Nielsen data, 118.5 million viewers tuned in, a trend that was reflected in 2015 load data when load only increased slightly after the second quarter and decreased when Perry took the stage.

The popularity of the 2016 Super Bowl half time show is anyone’s guess. Coldplay will headline, with special guests Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars. Beyoncé’s half time performance in 2013 was second only to Perry’s in viewership, whereas Mars’ was significantly less popular. When Mars took the stage in 2014, demand increased about 600 MW.

4. Who’s That?

The Super Bowl halftime show always gets plenty of opinions from critics and viewers at home. The Who’s performance in 2010 saw one of the largest jumps in power demand once the Halftime Show started.  There was nearly a 1,000 MW jump at the start of the halftime show of people going to do other things.

Prince’s halftime performance resulted in an equally big jump in 2007. There was another jump of nearly 1,000 MW when Prince’s show started.

But it’s not all bad news for aging rockers. People stayed tuned in to the Rolling Stones in 2006 and the Black Eyed Peas in 2011. Power increases during these halftime shows was relatively small.

5. Super Bowl XLVI: The Most Captive Audience in Recent Memory?

In addition to having the biggest end of game jump in energy usage, the 2012 Super Bowl also saw the biggest decrease in power usage at the end of the Halftime Show. Given the 9-10 score at the start of the third quarter, it makes sense that people were hurrying back to their TVs to watch the rest of the game.

And this total focus on watching the game is backed up by the viewership numbers. Nielsen estimates that 53,910,000 households were tuned into the game.  So not only do the viewership numbers show the huge interest in the game, the electricity consumption seems to back that up.

Which could lead one to assume the 2012 game was one of the best games in recent memory. But we may be biased since it was hosted in our hometown of Indianapolis.

1 thought on “5 Facts About Energy During the Big Game

  1. Not to mention Super Bowl XLVII’s dramatic second half after the Beyoncé Halftime performance at the Superdome in New Orleans. The power blacked out, which halted play and left millions of TV viewers in the dark.

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